Role of childhood health in the explanation of socioeconomic inequalities in early adult health

H van de Mheen*, K Stronks, CWN Looman, JP Mackenbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Study objective

To examine the contribution of childhood health to the explanation of socioeconomic inequalities in health in early adult Life.


Retrospective data were used, which were obtained from a postal survey in the baseline of a prospective cohort study (the Longitudinal Study on Socio-Economic Health Differences in the Netherlands). Adult socioeconomic status was indicated by educational level, while health was indicated by perceived general health. Childhood health was measured by self reported periods of severe disease in childhood. Relations were analysed using logistic regression models. The reduction in odds ratios of "less than good" perceived general health for different educational groups after adjustment for childhood health was used to estimate the contribution of childhood health.


The population of the city of Eindhoven and surroundings in the south east of the Netherlands in 1991. Participants-2511 respondents, aged 25-34 years, men and women, of Dutch nationality, were included in the analysis.

Main results

There was a clear association between childhood health and adult health, as well as an association between childhood health and adult socioeconomic status. Approximately 5% to 10% of the increased risk of the lower socioeconomic groups of having a ((less than good)) perceived general health can be explained by childhood health. Conclusions-Childhood health contributes to the explanation of socioeconomic inequalities in early adult health. Although this contribution is not very large, it cannot be ignored and has to be interpreted largely in terms of selection on health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-19
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


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