Heterogeneity in multidimensional health trajectories of late old years and socioeconomic stratification: a latent trajectory class analysis

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Mar;68(2):290-7. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbs111. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Objectives: This study examines (a) the heterogeneity in individual multidimensional health trajectories and (b) the socioeconomic stratification of individual multidimensional health trajectories during the late older years.

Method: This study used prospective data from 1,945 adults, 75 to 85 years old, collected over an 8-year period from the Health and Retirement Study. To examine inconsistent findings in the research literature, a latent trajectory class analysis was performed.

Results: Multidimensional overall health trajectories showed three heterogeneous latent classes (maintaining, persistently high, and deteriorating), and profiles of ascribed and achieved socioeconomic characteristics of multidimensional health trajectory classes showed a significant social and racial/ethnic stratification in late older years.

Discussion: Past adverse socioeconomic circumstances, including childhood and adulthood adversity, are potential sources of unobserved heterogeneity of multidimensional health trajectories even in late older years. The identification of members of latent trajectory health classes and the associated antecedents linked to health class membership are consistent with a life-course conceptual framework. Thus, multidimensional health capturing the full range of health problems needs to be investigated for proper examination of socioeconomic correlates of health. This facilitates the understanding of the associations between life-course experiences and health in late old age that ultimately have implications for prevention and intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Transition*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors