Objectives: Evidence on the relationship between childhood socio-economic position (SEP) and adult mortality risk is mounting, but is sparse in regions outside Europe and North America. The present study aimed to examine this relationship in South Korea.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Methods: First-round data from the Korea Labour and Income Panel Study were linked to data on mortality. Childhood SEP indicators were father's education, own education, father's occupational class at age 14, own first occupational class after age 15, birth place, and residence at age 14. Adulthood SEP indicators included current occupational class, family income, perceived economic hardships, and current residence.
Results: Mortality differentials according to current occupational class, economic hardship and current residence were statistically significant. Mortality risk tended to increase as household income decreased. For all childhood SEP indicators, inverse relationships between childhood SEP and mortality risk were found. These inverse relationships were attenuated but did not disappear with adjustment for each adulthood SEP indicator. However, the statistically significant association between childhood SEP and mortality risk did not persist after full adjustment for four adulthood SEP indicators.
Conclusions: Both early- and later-life markers of SEP were related to an increased risk of death in South Korea. Future studies need to examine the relationship between childhood SEP and cause-specific mortality.