SocialPaths: Sex-specific socioeconomic pathways to cardiovascular disease risk across the life course

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally in both females and males. After decades of research, we know what causes heart disease but prevention remains challenging. Much of what we know about heart disease and how we go about preventing it today is based on research in males. Future prevention strategies require research that takes a different approach to the study of heart disease.

The risk of heart disease differs substantially by socioeconomic position, often defined using education achieved. Females experience a higher burden of socioeconomic inequality and this may have stronger effects on their heart health compared with males. We know that socioeconomic inequalities in heart disease have existed for decades and these are projected to widen due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but prevention is still very challenging for society. This is because reduction in socioeconomic inequalities requires life course approaches that start in childhood. However, we still have limited understanding of when in the life course socioeconomic position most strongly influences heart risk. In addition, we also have limited understanding of how lower socioeconomic position leads to poorer heart health. Greater understanding of pathways linking socioeconomic position and heart disease (for instance, health behaviours) across life can identify targets for future prevention strategies to reduce socioeconomic inequalities and ultimately reduce the burden of heart disease in the population.

The aim of SocialPaths is to improve understanding of the sex-specific socioeconomic pathways that lead to heart disease risk across a person’s life in a world-leading UK study that follows participants from birth to adulthood.

Specifically, SocialPaths will identify:

  • when in life socioeconomic position most influences sex-specific heart disease risk
  • what intermediate pathways link these
  • what interventions across early life would be potentially effective in preventing socioeconomic inequalities in heart disease risk in the future.
Award Date
01 July 2022
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Linda O'Keeffe
Host Institution
University College Cork
Investigator Led Projects