OBJECTIVE: In this article we review different measures of socioeconomic position (SEP) and their uses in health-related research.
AREAS OF AGREEMENT: Socioeconomic circumstances influence health.
AREAS OF CONTROVERSY: Generally, poorer socioeconomic circumstances lead to poorer health. This has generated a search for generic mechanisms that could explain such a general association. However, we propose that there is a greater variation in the association between SEP and health than is generally acknowledged when specific health outcomes are investigated. We propose that studying these variations provide a better understanding of the aetiological mechanisms relating specific diseases with specific exposures. AREAS TO DEVELOP RESEARCH: Using different indicators of SEP in health research can better capture these variations and is important when evaluating the full contribution of confounding by socioeconomic conditions. We propose that using an array of SEP indicators within a life course framework also offers considerable opportunity to explore causal pathways in disease aetiology.
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