Life course accumulation of disadvantage: childhood health and hazard exposure during adulthood

Soc Sci Med. 2000 May;50(9):1285-95. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(99)00375-5.


The present paper examines the association between physical and social disadvantage during childhood and lifetime exposure to health-damaging environments. Study members were participants of Boyd Orr's clinical, social and dietary survey conducted between 1937 and 1939 and were aged between 5 and 14 years at clinical examination. Study participants were traced and between 1997 and 1998 a random sample of 294 were interviewed. The lifegrid interview method was used to collect full occupational, residential and household histories, from which accumulated lifetime exposures to a range of environmental hazards were estimated. Age-adjusted height during childhood was found to be inversely related to subsequent exposure to all hazards combined (males p = 0.002; females p = 0.001). This relationship was found in males with manual fathers (p = 0.044) and females with non-manual fathers (p = 0.035). Chronic disease during childhood was also associated with greater subsequent hazard exposure in males with manual fathers (p = 0.008). Among females with non-manual fathers, in contrast, chronic disease during childhood was associated with reduced subsequent hazard exposure (p = 0.05). These findings suggest that exposure to health-damaging environments during adulthood may accumulate on top of health disadvantage during childhood and that this process of life course accumulation of disadvantage may vary by gender and childhood social class.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors