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A life course model of self-rated health through adolescence and young adulthood


  • Bauldry, Shawn
  • Shanahan, Michael J.
  • Boardman, Jason D.
  • Miech, Richard A.
  • Macmillan, Ross


This paper proposes and tests a life course model of self-rated health (SRH) extending from late childhood to young adulthood, drawing on three waves of panel data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Very little research has examined SRH during the early decades, or whether and how these self-assessments reflect experiences in the family of origin. Background characteristics (parental education, income, and family structure), parental health conditions (asthma, diabetes, obesity, migraines), and early health challenges (physical abuse, presence of a disability, and parental alcoholism and smoking) predict SRH from adolescence to young adulthood. These experiences in the family-of-origin are substantially mediated by the young person’s health and health behaviors (as indicated by obesity, depression, smoking, drinking, and inactivity), although direct effects remain (especially for early health challenges). Associations between SRH and these mediators (especially obesity) strengthen with age. In turn, efforts to promote healthy behaviors in young adulthood, after the completion of secondary school, may be especially strategic in the promotion of health in later adulthood.

Suggested Citation

  • Bauldry, Shawn & Shanahan, Michael J. & Boardman, Jason D. & Miech, Richard A. & Macmillan, Ross, 2012. "A life course model of self-rated health through adolescence and young adulthood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(7), pages 1311-1320.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:7:p:1311-1320 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.05.017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Palloni, 2006. "Reproducing inequalities: Luck, wallets, and the enduring effects of childhood health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(4), pages 587-615, November.
    2. Silja Göhlmann & Christoph M. Schmidt & Harald Tauchmann, 2010. "Smoking initiation in Germany: the role of intergenerational transmission," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(2), pages 227-242.
    3. Jylhä, Marja, 2009. "What is self-rated health and why does it predict mortality? Towards a unified conceptual model," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 307-316, August.
    4. Mark Hayward & Bridget Gorman, 2004. "The long arm of childhood: The influence of early-life social conditions on men’s mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(1), pages 87-107, February.
    5. Steven Haas, 2007. "The long-term effects of poor childhood health: An assessment and application of retrospective reports," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 113-135, February.
    6. Benjamins, Maureen Reindl & Hummer, Robert A. & Eberstein, Isaac W. & Nam, Charles B., 2004. "Self-reported health and adult mortality risk: An analysis of cause-specific mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(6), pages 1297-1306, September.
    7. Coneus, Katja & Spiess, C. Katharina, 2012. "The intergenerational transmission of health in early childhood—Evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 89-97.
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    Cited by:

    1. Huong Thu Le & Ha Trong Nguyen, 2015. "Intergenerational Transmission in Health: Causal estimates from fixed effects instrumental variables models for two cohorts of Australian children," Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper series WP1509, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School.
    2. Schaan, Barbara, 2014. "The interaction of family background and personal education on depressive symptoms in later life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 94-102.
    3. Goosby, Bridget J. & Cheadle, Jacob E. & McDade, Thomas, 2016. "Birth weight, early life course BMI, and body size change: Chains of risk to adult inflammation?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 102-109.
    4. Naomi Duke & Ross Macmillan, 2016. "Schooling, skills, and self-rated health: A test of conventional wisdom on the relationship between educational attainment and health," Working Papers 087, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    5. Bauldry, Shawn, 2014. "Conditional health-related benefits of higher education: An assessment of compensatory versus accumulative mechanisms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 94-100.
    6. Vie, Tina Løkke & Hufthammer, Karl Ove & Holmen, Turid Lingaas & Meland, Eivind & Breidablik, Hans Johan, 2014. "Is self-rated health a stable and predictive factor for allostatic load in early adulthood? Findings from the Nord Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 1-9.
    7. Link, Bruce G. & Susser, Ezra S. & Factor-Litvak, Pam & March, Dana & Kezios, Katrina L. & Lovasi, Gina S. & Rundle, Andrew G. & Suglia, Shakira F. & Fader, Kim M. & Andrews, Howard F. & Johnson, Eile, 2017. "Disparities in self-rated health across generations and through the life course," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 174(C), pages 17-25.


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