Childhood socioeconomic status and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis


Milaniak, Izabela & Jaffee, Sara R. (2019). Childhood socioeconomic status and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.


Recent research suggests that risk for chronic diseases of aging including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer can be programmed early in the lifespan as a result of exposure to chronic stressors like low socioeconomic status (SES) that are hypothesized to promote a pro-inflammatory response in immune cells that results in chronic, systemic inflammation. The present paper conducted a meta-analysis to establish whether exposure to low (versus higher) SES in childhood and adolescence is associated with higher levels of inflammation (as measured by C-reactive protein, IL-6, and fibrinogen) concurrently and in adulthood. We conducted meta-analyses with both unadjusted bivariate associations between SES and inflammation and with adjusted associations that controlled for a range of covariates including demographic factors, body mass index, smoking, physical activity and current SES. A systematic review of Pubmed and PsycINFO identified a total 35 studies (26 with unadjusted and 31 adjusted effect sizes) to be included in the meta-analysis. Random-effects meta-analysis showed that individuals who were exposed to low SES in childhood and adolescence had significantly higher levels of inflammatory markers (r = −0.07, p < .001, 95% CI = −0.09, −0.05). This association remained significant in adjusted analyses (r = −0.06, p < .001, 95% CI = −0.09, −0.03). However, the relationship between childhood SES and inflammation was non-significant in a meta-analysis with longitudinal studies that all controlled for adulthood SES (r = −0.03, p = .356, 95% CI = −0.08, 0.03). Future longitudinal research should utilize measurement of inflammatory markers at multiple time points to further examine the complex relationships between SES and health both in childhood and adulthood.




Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity


Milaniak, Izabela
Jaffee, Sara R.

Year Published



February 7, 2019



Reference ID