Survey finds gap between social classes in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease

The overall prevalence in England of ischaemic heart disease or stroke increased between 1994 and 1998, according to a survey published in December, 1999, by the Department of Health. In addition, the survey found a socio-economic gradient in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

The risk of ischaemic heart disease was highest in the lower social classes. This gradient was also seen in terms of risk factors for the disease. The proportion of people who consumed an excessive amount of alcohol on one day in the week before the survey was conducted was highest among lower social classes. The proportion of smokers was highest in the lowest income quintile. Obesity was more common in lower than higher social classes.

Among risk factors for cardiovascular disease for the population as a whole, the proportion of people who were obese or overweight increased between 1994 and 1998 from 58 per cent to 63 per cent of men and 49 per cent to 53 per cent of women. There was an increase in the number of smokers among 16 to 24 year olds. Alcohol consumption increased in women from 1994 to 1998 but remained stable in men, although, overall, men drank more than double the amount that women did.

The survey involved an interview and an examination by a nurse and involved 17,240 adults. The prevalence of cardiovascular disease decreased between 1993 and 1994 and increased in 1998. However, a longer time series would be needed to see if there was an underlying trend to these fluctuations, the report concludes.

Health Survey for England: Cardiovascular Disease 1998; available on the Department of Health’s internet site (


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2000;():DOI:10.1211/PJ.2000.20000012