Fries with that? Your first job influences heart health, study suggests

Your first job may influence your heart health down the line. (Stock, Getty Images)
Your first job may influence your heart health down the line. (Stock, Getty Images)

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have warned early employment is linked to heart health in later life.

The team analysed the health and socioeconomic data of more than 12,000 people over several decades.

Results suggest those who were employed in a professional or managerial role between 16 and 24 years old had better heart health when they turned 46 than those who were "economically inactive" or in "partially skilled" employment.

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Spending more time in education was also linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular complications.

elder heart attack chest paint for background with space for text
Heart disease is behind one in four deaths in the UK. (Stock, Getty Images)

"We found an individual's education and employment experiences in early adulthood had a far larger impact on measures of cardiovascular health more than 20 years later than their occupation or income at that time did," said study author Dr Eleanor Winpenny.

"These results suggest we need to provide more support for young adults to allow healthy development into middle age and prevent disease in later life.

"Given the added disadvantage to young adults as a result [of] the current coronavirus pandemic, there is an urgent need to understand and mitigate the effect these circumstances may be having on their future health."

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Heart disease causes around one in four deaths in the UK alone, killing someone every three minutes.

People who spend less time in education or have a lower "job status" have long been known to have a shorter life expectancy than their more privileged peers.

Early adulthood – 16 to 24 – is an important time for "the development of" a person's "socioeconomic position" and "behaviours related to cardiovascular health".

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The extent to which "early adulthood socioeconomic trajectories" influence our later wellbeing was unclear, however.

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To learn more, the Cambridge scientists analysed participants of the 1970s British Birth Cohort.

The participants were divided into "different socioeconomic trajectory groups" based on their level of education and any employment between 16 and 24 years old.

Cardiovascular risk factors were then assessed at age 46, including blood pressure, cholesterol level and waist circumference.

The results – published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health – suggest the time a person spends in education or any early adulthood jobs are linked to their heart health more than 20 years later.

This is "not entirely down" to the participants' income or employment at 46 years old. The findings may instead be the result of health behaviours that are developed in a person's late teens or early 20s.

"Psychosocial factors" – like stress, depression and job control – could also play a role.

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