Journal Article

Why are well-educated Muscovites more likely to survive? Understanding the biological pathways

Todd, M. A., Shkolnikov, V. M., Goldman, N.

Social Science and Medicine, 157, 138-147 (2016)


Keywords: Russian Federation, ageing, education, mortality


There are large socioeconomic disparities in adult mortality in Russia, although the biological mechanisms are not well understood. With data from the study of Stress, Aging, and Health in Russia (SAHR), we use Gompertz hazard models to assess the relationship between educational attainment and mortality among older adults in Moscow and to evaluate biomarkers associated with inflammation, neuroendocrine function, heart rate variability, and clinical cardiovascular and metabolic risk as potential mediators of that relationship. We do this by assessing the extent to which the addition of biomarker variables into hazard models of mortality attenuates the association between educational attainment and mortality. We find that an additional year of education is associated with about 5% lower risk of age-specific all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Inflammation biomarkers are best able to account for this relationship, explaining 25% of the education-all-cause mortality association, and 35% of the education-cardiovascular mortality association. Clinical markers perform next best, accounting for 13% and 23% of the relationship between education and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively. Although heart rate biomarkers are strongly associated with subsequent mortality, they explain very little of the education-mortality link. Neuroendocrine biomarkers fail to account for any portion of the link. These findings suggest that inflammation may be important for understanding mortality disparities by socioeconomic status.

Keywords: Russia; Socioeconomic status; Biomarkers; Mortality; Aging; Inflammation; Education