Using an interactive framework of society and lifecourse to explain self-rated health in early adulthood

Soc Sci Med. 2001 Dec;53(12):1575-85. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00437-8.


This paper presents an integrated model of the determinants of adult health combining lifecourse factors and contemporary circumstances. Using the 1958 British Birth Cohort, it operationalises lifecourse influences in terms of factors from birth to age 33, which might act through latent, pathway, or cumulative effects. Contemporary circumstances are represented by variables at different levels of social aggregation: macro (socio-economic circumstances); meso (involvement in civil society functions); micro (personal social support); and intersecting (job insecurity and life control). Multiple regression models were fitted, using self-rated health at age 33 as the health outcome. To allow for temporal ordering of events, early life factors were entered first in the final model, followed by later childhood factors and, finally current factors. Self-rated health was predicted by variables representing both early and later stage of the lifecourse and also contemporary societal-level factors. The effects of childhood factors were not removed by including contemporary factors, and conversely, contemporary factors contributed to the prediction of self-rated health over and above lifecourse factors. The factors were not collinear; supporting the notion that each dimension was distinct from the others. Although the model accounted for only 9% of the variance in self-rated health, the general conclusion is that both lifecourse and contemporary circumstances should be considered together in explaining adult health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Social Class
  • Time Factors
  • United States