Socioeconomic disadvantage and child morbidity: an Australian longitudinal study

Soc Sci Med. 1993 Apr;36(8):1053-61. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(93)90123-l.


While an extensive body of literature has demonstrated an association between socioeconomic status and child mortality, there have been relatively few papers which discuss the impact of socioeconomic inequality on child morbidity. This absence of data is partly attributable to methodological problems (need for large samples, the difficulty of assessing morbidity) and partly to the absence of relevant official health statistics. This paper reports results from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) and its outcomes. The sample comprises 8556 consecutive pregnancies, of which over 90% were followed up to birth. Of those mothers giving birth, approx. 70% of children were successfully given a health assessment five years after the birth (mothers report of the child's health using a set of standard indicators). The results indicate a consistent pattern with the children of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers manifesting the worst health. Thus children living in socioeconomic disadvantage have a higher rate of health service utilisation, more chronic health problems and poorer dental health. The paper discusses some social policies for redressing these inequalities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Maternal Age
  • Morbidity*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poverty
  • Socioeconomic Factors