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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Socioeconomic status is associated with reduced lung function in China: an analysis from a large cross-sectional study in Shanghai

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Adam W. Gaffney, Jing-qing Hang, Mi-Sun Lee, Li Su, Feng-ying Zhang, David C. Christiani
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

Guarantor: DCC takes responsibility for the content of the manuscript. AWG participated in study design, statistical analysis, and interpretation of results, and was responsible for drafting the manuscript. DCC originated the study concept and design, field collection, advised analyses and interpretation of data, and revised the entire manuscript critically. JQH participated in study design, field collection, and interpretation. LS participated in study design, data collection, field and lab quality control, and interpretation. FYZ participated in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. MSL participated in data analysis and interpretation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



An inverse association between socioeconomic status and pulmonary function has emerged in many studies. However, the mediating factors in this relationship are poorly understood, and might be expected to differ between countries. We sought to investigate the relationship between socioeconomic status and lung function in China, a rapidly industrializing nation with unique environmental challenges, and to identify potentially-modifiable environmental mediators.


We used data from the Shanghai Putuo Study, a cross-sectional study performed in Shanghai, China. Participants completed a questionnaire and spirometry. The primary exposure was socioeconomic status, determined by education level. The primary outcomes were FEV1 and FVC percent predicted. Multiple linear regressions were used to test this association, and the percent explained by behavioral, environmental, occupational, and dietary variables was determined by adding these variables to a base model.


The study population consisted of a total of 22,878 study subjects that were 53.3 % female and had a mean age of 48. In the final multivariate analysis, the effect estimates for FEV1 and FVC percent predicted for low socioeconomic status (compared to high) were statistically significant at a p-value of <0.01. Smoking, biomass exposure, mode of transportation to work, a diet low in fruits or vegetables, and occupational category partially attenuated the relationship between SES and lung function. In a fully-adjusted age-stratified analysis, the socioeconomic disparity in lung function widened with increasing age.


We found cross-sectional evidence of socioeconomic disparities in pulmonary function in Shanghai. These differences increased with age and were partially explained by potentially modifiable exposures.
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