Childhood socioeconomic hardship, family conflict, and young adult hypertension: The Santiago Longitudinal Study

Soc Sci Med. 2020 May;253:112962. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112962. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Objective: Stress derived from socioeconomic disadvantage can be damaging to mental and physical health. This study uses longitudinal data on a large prospectively studied cohort to examine how socioeconomic hardship during childhood leads to hypertension in young adulthood by its effects on family conflict, anxiety-depression, and body mass.

Method: Data are from 1,039 participants of the Santiago Longitudinal Study who were studied in childhood (M age 10 years), adolescence (14-17 years), and young adulthood (21-26 years). As young adults, 26% had elevated blood pressure or hypertension.

Results: Children from more economically disadvantaged families experienced higher levels of family conflict, which related to significant increases in anxiety-depression and body mass over time, both of which were directly linked to hypertension in young adulthood.

Conclusions: Findings provide an understanding of how early-life adversity associated with socioeconomic hardship manifests as stress-related health problems in adulthood. Intervention efforts that target overweight/obesity and anxiety and depression that stem from childhood poverty might be useful for reducing the socioeconomic disparities in adult health.

Keywords: Blood pressure; Body mass index; Chile; Family conflict; Hypertension; Socioeconomic hardship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Family Conflict*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / epidemiology
  • Hypertension* / etiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Poverty
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult