Elvers, Horst-Dietrich Borte, Michael Herbarth, Olf
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This paper assesses the impact of social factors on the development of allergic diseases in early childhood. Epidemiological research has shown increasing allergy rates with improvements in social economic status (SES). However, we argue that the pattern of social influences on allergies is too coloured to be reduced to mere correlations between allergy and SES only. We would suggest rather explaining effects of SES on allergic diseases by mediating factors of the social and the physical environment. Hence, in our study we analyzed infants with atopic dermatitis as well as infants with symptoms of wheezing for the influence of SES and other socioeconomic variables. Further, we examined whether SES and socioeconomic variables interact with several risk factors of the social and physical environment. Our results indicate that associations between socioeconomic variables and allergies point to hidden influences of the social and physical environment, which must be revealed in order to understand the social causes of allergies. As we did so we could provide evidence that SES is not a causal risk factor for allergies, as is imprecisely suggested by many epidemiological studies. Indeed, correlations between SES and disease outcomes are a powerful measure to indicate social influences on health and illness. But they might only be a first step in a multi-factorial research approach, which assesses the various pathways through which social factor and human health interact.
allergy children social inequality socioeconomic status social epidemiology