Objectives: To investigate associations of socioeconomic position (SEP) and obesity with incident osteoarthritis (OA), and to examine whether body mass index (BMI) mediates the association between SEP and incident OA.
Methods: Data came from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a population-based cohort study of adults aged ≥50 years. The sample population included 9,281 people. Cox regression analyses were performed to investigate the associations between SEP (measured by education, occupation, income, wealth and deprivation) and obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) at baseline and self-reported incident OA. The mediating effect of BMI on the relationship between SEP and incident OA were estimated using Structural Equation Models.
Results: After a mean follow-up time of 7.8 years, 2,369 participants developed OA. Number of person-years included in the analysis was 65,456. Lower SEP was associated with higher rates of OA (for example, hazard ratio (HR) lowest vs highest education category 1.52 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30, 1.79)). Obesity compared with non-obesity was associated with increased rates of incident OA (HR 1.37 (95% CI 1.23, 1.52)). BMI mediated the relationship between a lower SEP and OA (β=0.005, p<0.001) and the direct effect was not significant (β=0.004, p=0.212).
Conclusions: Strategies to reduce social inequalities and obesity prevalence may help to reduce OA risk.