Health selection in a 14-year follow-up study--a question of gendered discrimination?

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Nov;61(10):2221-32. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.04.020.


Health selection, as one of the several possible explanations for social inequities in health, has been receiving more attention recently but few researchers turn the issue into a question of discrimination. The aim of the study was to analyse the impact of health in young age for social position in adult age and to discuss health selection in terms of discrimination from a gender-theoretical perspective. A prospective cohort study was conducted, in which all pupils (N = 1083) in the last year of compulsory school in a middle-sized municipality in northern Sweden were followed for 14 years. The response rate was high, with 96.6% still participating after 14 years. The data were collected through repeated comprehensive self-administered questionnaires as well as through teacher interviews and register data. Health selection was analysed in a multiple logistic regression model, with working-class position at age 30 as a dependent variable and different measures of health/health behaviour at age 16 and 21 as independent variables. Overall, the impact of early health/health behaviour on future socioeconomic position was small or non-existent. However, even after correction for possible mediating and moderating mechanisms, being overweight at age 16 and at age 21 was related to future working-class position among women only. Possible mediating mechanisms were feeling looked down upon, not being active in associations and not reading cultural/political events in daily newspapers. Early menarche together with early motherhood and low education could not explain the correlations. Our results indicate that overweight girls and young women are exposed to gendered discrimination which probably occurs in many arenas, based on the societal norms for female bodies in our society. There is a need to redirect research on health selection into gender research in order to further explore the subject as well as the possible mechanisms of gendered discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology