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BACKGROUND: Older adults in the United States (US) have worse health and wider socioeconomic inequalities in health compared to Britain. Less is known about how health in the two countries compares in midlife, a time of emerging health decline, including inequalities in health. METHODS: We compare measures of smoking status, alcohol consumption, obesity, self-rated health, cholesterol, blood pressure, and glycated haemoglobin using population-weighted modified Poisson regression in the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) in Britain (N= 9,665) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) in the US (N=12,297), when cohort members were aged 34-46 and 33-43, respectively. We test whether associations vary by early- and mid-life socioeconomic position. FINDINGS: US adults had higher levels of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Prevalence of poor self-rated health, heavy drinking, and smoking was worse in Britain. We found smaller socioeconomic inequalities in midlife health in Britain compared to the US. For some outcomes (e.g., smoking), the most socioeconomically advantaged group in the US was healthier than the equivalent group in Britain. For other outcomes (hypertension and cholesterol), the most advantaged US group fared equal to or worse than the most disadvantaged groups in Britain. INTERPRETATION: US adults have worse cardiometabolic health than British counterparts, even in early midlife. The smaller socioeconomic inequalities and better overall health in Britain may reflect differences in access to health care, welfare systems, or other environmental risk factors. FUNDING: ESRC, UKRI, MRC, NIH, European Research Council, Leverhulme Trust.

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Journal article



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Biomarkers, Cardio-metabolic health, cross-country comparison, harmonization, inequalities, mid-life, socioeconomic position