Where You Live, or Who You Are? The Role of Childhood for Adult Health, Southern Sweden, 1881-2015

Tommy Bengtsson , Lund University
Luciana Quaranta, Lund University

Adverse early-life conditions not only cause instant health problems but also have lasting negative effects on both economic well-being and health. Improvements in early life, whether less exposure to disease, better diets, or better upbringing in general have been considered an important driver of the historical mortality decline and economic growth. Consequently, understanding the role of early life factors and how they have changed over time is important for the understanding the long-term improvements in living standards and health over the last two centuries. Our previous studies using longitudinal data from Southern Sweden up to 1968 have shown that individuals born in years with high infant mortality rates experienced lower socioeconomic performance and higher levels of adult and old age mortality. No effects of economic cycles and socioeconomic status of parents at time of birth were found. The question addressed in this paper is whether these results persisted for later born cohorts and, if they did not, when did a change take place. Following individuals up to 2015, we find that exposure to disease in early life affects mortality later in life, particularly at higher ages, also for more recent births cohorts. We also find some evidence that parental socioeconomic status and economic cycles in early life influenced later life health for these later born cohorts though the effects found vary by age, sex and cohort of birth a great deal.

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 Presented in Session 113. Life Course Influences on Physical and Mental Health