August 4, 2011

Illness in childhood can affect future health and career prospects, says study

Boy and girl playingWe say people with health problems early in life can have successful careers, but health inequalities should be tackled wherever they are found. 

Researchers from University College London found that people who spent long periods in hospital as a child, or had low birth weight, were more likely to find themselves passed over for promotion in later life.

The scientists also found that these same people were more likely to have a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Medical improvements

The researchers looked back over the careers of more than 8,300 civil service workers between 1991 and 2004 as part of the well-known Whitehall II study.

It is worth noting that medical care has improved since the study participants were children. Today, they would get much better care.

Important reminder

This study is a really important reminder that health inequality is embedded in our society

Our Senior Cardiac Nurse, Ellen Mason 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."

“This study is a really important reminder that health inequality is embedded in our society from a very early age – even from birth. In a week when NHS cuts are high on the news agenda, this study couldn’t be more timely in giving a reminder of the vital importance of tackling health inequality right from the start of life.”

The research was published today in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study was also funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the BUPA Foundation, the United States National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

How we are helping tackle health inequalities

  • Our Hearty Lives Programme is investing £10m in bringing heart health to deprived areas.
  • Join Hearty Voices and make a difference representing heart patients in your area.
  • Our Help a Heart grants give community groups up to £2,000 to start their own heart health initiatives.