INTRODUCTION: Individuals with lower levels of education are at a higher risk of developing various health conditions due to limited access to healthcare and unhealthy lifestyle choices. However, the association between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and educational level remains unclear. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether there is an independent relationship between NAFLD and educational level as a surrogate marker for socioeconomic status (SES).
METHODS: This cross-sectional study included 8,727 participants from the Paracelsus 10,000 study. The association between NAFLD and educational level was assessed using multivariable logistic regression models and multivariable linear regression. The primary endpoints were NAFLD (FLI score > 60) and liver fibrosis (FIB-4 score > 1.29). Further subgroup analysis with liver stiffness measurement was done.
RESULTS: In the study, NAFLD prevalence was 23% among participants with high education, 33% among intermediate, and 40% among those with low education (p<0.01). Importantly, a significantly reduced risk of NAFLD was observed in individuals with higher education, as indicated by an adjusted relative risk of 0.52 (p < 0.01). Furthermore, higher education level was associated with significantly lower odds of NAFLD and fibrosis. Additionally, a subgroup analysis revealed that higher liver stiffness measurements were independently associated with lower levels of education.
CONCLUSION: The study's findings indicate that a lower education level increases the risk of NAFLD independent of confounding factors. Therefore, these findings highlight the potential impact of educational attainment on NAFLD risk and emphasize the need for targeted interventions in vulnerable populations.