Individual and environmental determinants of serum ferritin levels: A structural equation model

Marieke Vinkenoog, Rosa de Groot, Jeroen Lakerveld, Mart Janssen, Katja van den Hurk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Objectives: Serum ferritin levels are increasingly being used to assess iron stores. Considerable variation in ferritin levels within and between individuals has been observed, but our current understanding of factors that explain this variation is far from complete. We aim to combine multiple potential determinants in an integrative model, and investigate their relative importance and potential interactions. Methods: We use ferritin measurements collected by Sanquin Blood Bank on both prospective (N = 59 596) and active blood donors (N = 78 318) to fit a structural equation model with three latent constructs (individual characteristics, donation history, and environmental factors). Parameters were estimated separately by sex and donor status. Results: The model explained 25% of ferritin variance in prospective donors, and 40% in active donors. Individual characteristics and donation history were the most important determinants of ferritin levels in active donors. The association between environmental factors and ferritin was smaller but still substantial; higher exposure to air pollution was associated with higher ferritin levels, and this association was considerably stronger for active blood donors than for prospective donors. Discussion: In active donors, individual characteristics explain 20% (17%) of ferritin variation, donation history explains 14% (25%) and environmental factors explain 5% (4%) for women (men). Our model presents known ferritin determinants in a broader perspective, allowing for comparison with other determinants as well as between new and active donors, or between men and women.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransfusion medicine
Early online date2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


  • air pollution
  • ferritin testing
  • iron metabolism

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