Loosening the link between childhood poverty and adolescent smoking and obesity: the protective effects of social capital

Psychol Sci. 2011 Jan;22(1):3-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797610390387. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Pervasive, lifelong inequalities in physical health begin in early childhood and are driven, in part, by social gradients in risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Yet not all low-income children have elevated physical-health risks as adults. The relation between income-to-needs ratio at age 9 and smoking prevalence and body fat (body mass index) at age 17 was examined in a sample of 196 rural adolescents. Income-to-needs ratio is the U.S. federal government's defined index of household income as a proportion of the poverty line. This is the first study to show that links between childhood poverty and subsequent physical-health outcomes can be loosened. At-risk youth in communities with a relatively rich array of social capital did not smoke more or have greater excess body fat compared with their more affluent counterparts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Social Support*