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Life-time cost of childhood illness

Thursday August 4th, 2011

People who have suffered long periods of illness as children may end up struggling in their careers later in life, researchers said today.

These children may face a "double whammy" - as unsuccessful careers in turn cause stress and disadvantage, leading to more poor health, according to the analysis.

By middle age, someone who was a sick child or low birth weight baby has an increased risk of developing heart disease, according to the latest analysis of a study of British civil servants.

Some 8,300 people were studied in a project backed by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Experts said improved treatment for sick children in the last few decades may have helped to change their prospects.

Researcher Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London, UK, said: “Our new study shows a link between poor health in infancy and worse future job prospects, but as this study looked at a group of workers in the civil service over a specific period of time it shouldn’t be taken to apply to everyone.

"Our findings do demonstrate very clearly that your social circumstances can affect your risk of heart disease – underlining real health inequality problems that exist in the UK today.”

Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "There are a lot of reasons why people might be ill as a child, and birth defects such as congenital heart disease can sadly affect anyone’s child.

"Families shouldn’t be worried by these findings – many people who have health problems in infancy go on to become career high-flyers."

Socioeconomic Differences in Cardiometabolic Factors: Social Causation or Health-related Selection? Evidence From the Whitehall II Cohort Study, 1991–2004. American Journal of Epidemiology August 4 2011 DOI 10.1093/aje/kwr149

Tags: Child Health | Heart Health | UK News

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