New ESRC-funded project to explore fine-grained inequalities in chronic diseases

Chronic diseases

How fine-grained inequalities such as age, gender, and ethnicity affect someone’s risk and potential outcomes for three common later-life chronic diseases will be explored in a new project funded by an ESRC Transformative Research award.

Chronic diseases are key drivers of health inequalities for those over 50 and pose a significant public health challenge. Traditionally research into these inequalities has tended to focus on just one variable at a time, such as socioeconomic position, age, gender or ethnicity.

The project offers a significant opportunity for a new approach to tackle the growing chronic disease burden negatively affecting the lives of many older people, but especially those in particularly deprived positions.

Dr Daniel holman

However, this approach overlooks how these socio-demographic factors might interact and overlap with each other to affect people’s health.

The two-year ‘Chronic disease and healthy ageing at the intersections: social locations, biomarkers, and health practices’ project, led by Dr Daniel Holman, will look at how different combinations of age, gender, socioeconomic position and ethnicity affect risk factors and outcomes for three common chronic diseases: type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The project takes a lifecourse approach, and along with co-investigators Professor Sarah Salway and Dr Andy Bell, Dr Holman will analyse how experiences in childhood through to later life health practices influence later life biomarkers associated with chronic diseases.

Biomarkers are objective indicators of disease risk and are increasingly collected as part of national and international surveys. Commonly known biomarkers include blood pressure, inflammation and for diabetes, HbA1c.

Dr Holman, Research Fellow in the Department of Sociological Studies, said: “We hope that the findings of this project will highlight fine-grained inequalities that have previously escaped attention. The findings will suggest new ways to design, target and tailor public health policies and interventions.

“Academically, it takes up and runs with a theory which is currently seen as holding great promise to move health inequalities research forward. It will generate new conceptual, methodological and empirical knowledge which will be of substantial interest to the research community across a number of disciplines such as public health and gerontology.

“Ultimately, the project offers a significant opportunity for a new approach to tackle the growing chronic disease burden negatively affecting the lives of many older people, but especially those in particularly deprived positions.”