Past or present? Childhood living conditions and current socioeconomic status as determinants of adult health

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Feb;44(3):327-36. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00102-5.


The aim was to study the associations of childhood living conditions, together with past and present socioeconomic status, with adult health among Finnish men and women. The data were derived from a nationwide interview Survey on Living Conditions collected by Statistics Finland in 1986. The sample represents the non-institutional Finnish population aged 15 years or older. The number of respondents was 12,057 and the response rate 87%. In this study we analysed 30-year-old and older subjects. Two health indicators were analysed: first, limiting long-standing illness; and second, self-assessed health as "below good". Four different indicators of childhood living conditions were included: one concerning economic problems, and three concerning family related social problems during childhood. Additionally, the degree of urbanisation of the childhood living area was examined. Past and present socioeconomic status were measured by the status of origin, i.e. the respondent's father's and mother's education, and the status of destination, i.e. the respondent's own current education. Economic problems during childhood were associated with current health. The association of childhood social problems with health was somewhat weaker and less consistent than that of economic problems. A comparison of the mutual impacts of economic and social problems, respectively, shows that economic problems are stronger and more independent determinants of adult health than social problems. According to multivariate logistic regression analysis, past and, particularly, present socioeconomic status are both important determinants of adult health. Current socioeconomic status showed strongest associations with adult health, but living conditions during upbringing, particularly economic problems and status of origin, were also significant predictors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*