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Do childhood and adult socioeconomic circumstances influence health and physical function in middle-age?


  • Osler, Merete
  • Madsen, Mia
  • Nybo Andersen, Anne-Marie
  • Avlund, Kirsten
  • Mcgue, Matt
  • Jeune, Bernard
  • Christensen, Kaare


This study examines the joint and separate contribution of social class in early and adult life to differences in health and physical function in middle-aged men. We use data from the Metropolit project which includes men born in 1953 in Copenhagen and a study of middle-aged Danish twins (MADT). In total 6292 Metropolit participants in a follow-up survey on health in 2004 were included in the study together with 2198 male twins of which 1294 were part of a male twin pair (NÂ =Â 647 pairs). Logistic regression was used to investigate the association between social class in early and adult life, respectively and health in midlife, measured as limitations in running 100Â m, poor dental status, poor self-rated health, and fatigue. In both datasets, men with low childhood or adult social class had a higher risk of being unable to run 100Â m, having poor dental status, having poor self-rated health and fatigue than men from the highest social classes. When childhood and adult social class were mutually adjusted, the estimates for both measures were attenuated. Adjustment for living without a partner, body mass index (BMI) and smoking in midlife, which were also related to the four outcomes, had marginal effects on the estimates for childhood social class, but attenuated the effect of adult social class somewhat. Among male twin pairs discordant on adult social class, the twin in the lowest class seemed to be unable to run 100Â m, rate own health poorer and being fatigued more often than the high class co-twin, while there seemed to be no twin pair difference in dental status. This suggests that the associations of adult social class with functional limitations, poor self-rated health and fatigue may partly be due to causal effects related to adult social class exposures, while social class differences in dental status might be consistent with an effect of factors mainly operating early in life.

Suggested Citation

  • Osler, Merete & Madsen, Mia & Nybo Andersen, Anne-Marie & Avlund, Kirsten & Mcgue, Matt & Jeune, Bernard & Christensen, Kaare, 2009. "Do childhood and adult socioeconomic circumstances influence health and physical function in middle-age?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(8), pages 1425-1431, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:8:p:1425-1431

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Verbrugge, Lois M. & Jette, Alan M., 1994. "The disablement process," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 1-14, January.
    2. Lundberg, Olle, 1993. "The impact of childhood living conditions on illness and mortality in adulthood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1047-1052, April.
    3. West, Patrick, 1991. "Rethinking the health selection explanation for health inequalities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 373-384, January.
    4. Lichtenstein, Paul & Harris, Jennifer R. & Pedersen, Nancy L. & McClearn, G.E., 1993. "Socioeconomic status and physical health, how are they related? An empirical study based on twins reared apart and twins reared together," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 441-450, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Madsen, Mia & Andersen, Per K. & Gerster, Mette & Andersen, Anne-Marie N. & Christensen, Kaare & Osler, Merete, 2014. "Are the educational differences in incidence of cardiovascular disease explained by underlying familial factors? A twin study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 182-190.
    2. Oshio, Takashi & Umeda, Maki & Fujii, Mayu, 2012. "The mediating effects of adulthood socioeconomic status and social support on adulthood impacts of childhood poverty in Japan," CIS Discussion paper series 538, Center for Intergenerational Studies, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.


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