Socioeconomic differences in metabolic syndrome development: examining the mediating role of chronic stress using the Lifelines Cohort Study

Liza A Hoveling*, Aart C Liefbroer, Ute Bültmann, Nynke Smidt

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) development strongly varies based on individuals' socioeconomic position (SEP), but to date, no studies have assessed the mediating role of perceived stress from long-term difficulties (chronic stress) in this association. The aim of this study is to examine the mediating role of chronic stress in the associations of the SEP measures education, occupational prestige and income, with MetS development, and whether associations between chronic stress and MetS are moderated by sex.

METHODS: We used an adult subsample (n = 53,216) from the Lifelines Cohort Study without MetS at baseline. MetS development was measured 3.9 years after baseline (follow-up), and defined according to National Cholesterol Education Program's Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATPIII) criteria. Direct associations between SEP, chronic stress and MetS development were estimated using multivariable logistic and linear regression analyses, and were adjusted for age, sex, the other SEP measures, and time between baseline and follow-up. The mediating percentages of chronic stress explaining the associations between SEP and MetS development were estimated using the Karlson-Holm-Breen method.

RESULTS: Upon follow-up, 7.4% of the participants had developed MetS. Years of education and occupational prestige were inversely associated with MetS development. Chronic stress suppressed the association between education and MetS development (5.6%), as well as the association between occupational prestige and MetS development (6.2%). No effect modification of sex on the chronic stress-MetS pathway was observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Chronic stress does not explain educational and occupational differences in developing MetS. In fact, individuals with more years of education or higher occupational prestige perceive more chronic stress than their lower SEP counterparts. Further, no difference between males and females was observed regarding the relationship between chronic stress and MetS development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number261
Pages (from-to)261
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2022

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