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Psychological, social and biological determinants of ill health (pSoBid)

Date: March 2013
Category: Report
Author: Dr Jennifer McLean

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pSoBid is a cross sectional population-based study which set out to investigate the psychological, behavioural and biological determinants of ill health.

Ill health has been long recognised as more prevalent in areas of relative social deprivation. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of the burden of ill health that is carried disproportionately by people from poorer circumstances. 

While much of this variation can be laid at the door of classical risk factors such as smoking, physical activity, poorer diets and so on, these factors fail to account for the totality of the variation. Social gradients are present in a range of biological and psychosocial variables which indicate that living in a deprived environment may increase the susceptibility to develop chronic diseases, through as of yet unknown mechanisms.

In a recruited cross-sectional group of participants from the least deprived and most deprived areas of Glasgow, pSoBid set out to:

• examine the associations between classical and novel risk factors and health outcomes, and to further examine the interactions between these determinants

• assess the extent to which the gap in health outcomes can be explained by these factors

• yield insights into new approaches which might help address Glasgow’s health record.

The study examined the psychological, social, behavioural and biological determinants of ill health within population groups in Glasgow that differed in socioeconomic status and in their susceptibility to develop chronic disease, especially coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The study also explored these aetiological links to try to identify potential explanatory pathways for the burden of physical and mental ill health in deprived communities.

pSoBid brought together expertise from social epidemiology, public health, biochemistry, psychology, neuroscience and genetics to build a better understanding of why living in poorer, more stressful circumstances results in higher levels of disease and ill-health.

This report presents the background to the study, a review of relevant literature, the full study methodology and key findings to date as a series of abstracts from academic published papers. It also presents the public health implications of these findings and outlines the next steps and future direction for pSoBid.

briefing paper discussing the pSoBid study findings in relation to our understanding of health inequalities, implications for population health research and implications for policy and practice is also available.