Childhood socioeconomic status and lifetime health behaviors: The Young Finns Study

Int J Cardiol. 2018 May 1;258:289-294. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.01.088. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Background: Differences in health behaviors partly explain the socioeconomic gap in cardiovascular health. We prospectively examined the association between childhood socioeconomic status (SES) and lifestyle factors in adulthood, and the difference of lifestyle factors according to childhood SES in multiple time points from childhood to adulthood.

Methods and results: The sample comprised 3453 participants aged 3-18 years at baseline (1980) from the longitudinal Young Finns Study. The participants were followed up for 31 years (N = 1675-1930). SES in childhood was characterized as reported annual family income and classified on an 8-point scale. Diet, smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity were used as adult and life course lifestyle factors. Higher childhood SES predicted a healthier diet in adulthood in terms of lower consumption of meat (β ± SE -3.6 ± 0.99,p < 0.001), higher consumption of fish (1.1 ± 0.5, p = 0.04) and higher diet score (0.14 ± 0.044, p = 0.01). Childhood SES was also directly associated with physical activity index (0.059 ± 0.023, p = 0.009) and inversely with the risk of being a smoker (RR 0.90 95%CI 0.85-0.95, p < 0.001) and the amount of pack years (-0.47 ± 0.18, p = 0.01). Life course level of smoking was significantly higher and physical activity index lower among those below the median childhood SES when compared with those above the median SES.

Conclusions: These results show that childhood SES associates with several lifestyle factors 31 years later in adulthood. Therefore, attention could be paid to lifestyle behaviors of children of low SES families to promote cardiovascular health.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disorders; Health behaviors; Preventive medicine; Socioeconomic status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet, Healthy / trends
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / trends
  • Social Class*