Nature Reviews Cardiology 6, 712-722 (November 2009) | doi:10.1038/nrcardio.2009.163

Subject Categories: Prevention | Public health

Socioeconomic status and cardiovascular disease: risks and implications for care

Alexander M. Clark, Marie DesMeules, Wei Luo, Amanda S. Duncan & Andy Wielgosz  About the authors


Socioeconomic status (SES) refers to an individual's social position relative to other members of a society. Low SES is associated with large increases in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in men and women. The inverse association between SES and CVD risk in high-income countries is the result of the high prevalence and compounding effects of multiple behavioral and psychosocial risk factors in people of low SES. However, strong and consistent evidence shows that parental SES, childhood and early-life factors, and inequalities in health services also contribute to elevated CVD risk in people of low SES who live in high-income countries. In addition, place of residence can affect CVD risk, although the data on the influence of wealth distribution and work-related factors are inconsistent. Studies on the effects of SES on CVD risk in low-income and middle-income countries is scarce, but evidence is emerging that the increasing wealth of these countries is beginning to lead to replication of the patterns seen in high-income countries. Clinicians should address the association between SES and CVD by incorporating SES into CVD risk calculations and screening tools, reducing behavioral and psychosocial risk factors via effective and equitable primary and secondary prevention, undertaking health equity audits to assess inequalities in care provision and outcomes, and by use of multidisciplinary teams to address risk factors over the life course.

Author affiliations

A. M. Clark, M. DesMeules, W. Luo, A. S. Duncan & A. Wielgosz
University of Alberta, Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. (A. M. Clark, A. S. Duncan). Public Health Agency Canada, Ottawa, Canada. (M. DesMeules, W. Luo, A. Wielgosz).

Correspondence to: A. M. Clark

Published online 22 September 2009