Background Health and well-being are better, on average, in countries that are more equal, but less is known about how this benefit is distributed across society. Height is a widely used, objective indicator of child health and predictor of lifelong well-being. We compared the level and slope of social gradients in children's height in high-income countries with different levels of income inequality, in order to investigate whether children growing up in all socioeconomic circumstances are healthier in more equal countries. Methods We conducted a coordinated analysis of data from five cohort studies from countries selected to represent different levels of income inequality (the USA, UK, Australia, the Netherlands and Sweden). We used standardised methods to compare social gradients in children's height at age 4-6 years, by parent education status and household income. We used linear regression models and predicted height for children with the same age, sex and socioeconomic circumstances in each cohort. Results The total analytic sample was 37 063 children aged 4-6 years. Gradients by parent education and household income varied between cohorts and outcomes. After adjusting for differences in age and sex, children in more equal countries (Sweden, the Netherlands) were taller at all levels of parent education and household income than children in less equal countries (USA, UK and Australia), with the greatest between-country differences among children with less educated parents and lowest household incomes. Conclusions The study provides preliminary evidence that children across society do better in more equal countries, with greatest benefit among children from the most disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

Additional Metadata
Keywords epidemiology, growth
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjpo-2019-000568, hdl.handle.net/1765/122472
Journal BMJ Paediatrics Open
Citation
Bird, P.K. (Philippa K), Pickett, K.E. (Kate E), Graham, H, Faresjö, T, Jaddoe, V.W.V, Ludvigsson, J, … McGrath, J.J. (Jennifer J). (2019). Income inequality and social gradients in children's height: A comparison of cohort studies from five high-income countries. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 3(1). doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2019-000568