Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Groups and Metabolic Syndrome in European Adolescents: The HELENA Study

Isabel Iguacel, Claudia Börnhorst, Nathalie Michels, Christina Breidenassel, Jean Dallongeville, Marcela González-Gross, Frédéric Gottrand, Anthony Kafatos, Eva Karaglani, Mathilde Kersting, Stefaan de Henauw, Christina Paulina Lambrinou, Lorenza Mistura, Denes Molnár, Esther Nova, Marc J. Gunter, Alejandro de la O Puerta, Azahara I. Rupérez, Kurt Widhalm, Inge HuybrechtsLuis A. Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Psychosocial stressors derived from socioeconomic disadvantages in adolescents can result in higher risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS). We aimed to examine whether socioeconomic disadvantages were associated with MetS independent of lifestyle and whether there was a dose-response relationship between the number of cumulated socioeconomic disadvantages and risk of MetS. Methods: This study included 1,037 European adolescents (aged 12.5–17.5 years). Sociodemographic variables and lifestyle were assessed by self-reported questionnaires. Disadvantaged groups included adolescents with low-educated parents, low family affluence, migrant origin, unemployed parents, and nontraditional families. MetS risk score was calculated as the sum of sex- and age-specific z-scores of waist circumference, blood pressure, lipids, and insulin resistance. Linear mixed-effects models adjusted for sex, age, pubertal status, and lifestyle were used to study the association between social disadvantages and MetS risk score. Results: Adolescents with low-educated mothers showed a higher MetS score (.54 [.09–.98]; β estimate and 99% confidence interval) compared to those with high-educated mothers. Adolescents who accumulated more than three disadvantages (.69 [.08–1.31]) or with missing information on disadvantages (.72 [.04–1.40]) had a higher MetS risk score compared to nonsocioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Stronger associations between socioeconomic disadvantages and MetS were found in male than in female adolescents. Conclusions: Adolescents with low-educated mothers or with more than three socioeconomic disadvantages had a higher MetS risk, independent of lifestyle, potentially due to higher psychosocial stress exposure. Policy makers should focus on improving low-educated familiesa and more disadvantaged families' knowledge on nutrition and physical activity to help them cope better with stress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • adolescents
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Modifiable lifestyle indicators
  • Obesity
  • Socioeconomic disadvantages
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Groups and Metabolic Syndrome in European Adolescents: The HELENA Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Iguacel, I., Börnhorst, C., Michels, N., Breidenassel, C., Dallongeville, J., González-Gross, M., Gottrand, F., Kafatos, A., Karaglani, E., Kersting, M., de Henauw, S., Lambrinou, C. P., Mistura, L., Molnár, D., Nova, E., Gunter, M. J., de la O Puerta, A., Rupérez, A. I., Widhalm, K., ... Moreno, L. A. (Accepted/In press). Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Groups and Metabolic Syndrome in European Adolescents: The HELENA Study. Journal of Adolescent Health.