Socioeconomic and Other Social Stressors and Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Risk in Youth: A Systematic Review of Less Studied Risk Factors

Slopen, Natalie; Goodman, Elizabeth; Koenen, Karestan C.; Kubzansky, Laura D.


Socioeconomic disadvantage and other social stressors in childhood have been linked with cardiometabolic diseases in adulthood; however the mechanisms underlying these observed associations and the timing of their emergence are unclear. The aim of this review was to evaluate research that examined relationships between socioeconomic disadvantage and other social stressors in relation to less-studied cardiometabolic risk factors among youth, including carbohydrate metabolism-related factors, lipids, and central adiposity.


We searched PubMed and ISI Web of Science to identify relevant publications between 2001 and 2013.Studies were selected based on 4 criteria: (1) the study examined an association between at least one social or economic stressor and one relevant outcome prior to age 21; (2) the sample originated from a high-income country; (3) the sample was not selected based on a health condition; and (4) a central aim was to evaluate the effect of the social or economic stressor on at least one relevant outcome. Abstracts were screened and relevant publications were obtained and evaluated for inclusion criteria. We abstracted data from selected articles, summarized them by exposures and outcomes, and assigned an evidence grade.


Our search identified 37 publications from 31 studies. Socioeconomic disadvantage was consistently associated with greater central adiposity. Research to date does not provide clear evidence of an association between childhood stressors and lipids or carbohydrate metabolism-related factors.


This review demonstrates a paucity of research on the relationship of socioeconomic disadvantage and other social stressors to lipid and carbohydrate metabolism-related factors in youth. Accordingly, it is not possible to form strong conclusions, particularly with regard to stressors other than socioeconomic disadvantage. Findings are used to inform priorities for future research. An improved understanding of these pathways is critical for identifying novel prevention targets and intervention opportunities to protect the long-term health of children and adolescents.


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February 17, 2017