Where You Live, or Who You Are? the Role of Childhood for Adult Health, Southern Sweden, 1900-2013

Tommy Bengtsson, Centre for Economic Demography and Department of Economic History, Lund University
Luciana Quaranta, Lund University, Department of Economic History and Centre for Economic Demography

Adverse early-life conditions have lasting negative effects on old-age income and health (Almond, 2006; D. J. P. Barker, 1992; Mazumder et al., 2010) Roseboom, 2006). Improvements in early life, whether less exposure to disease or better diets, have been considered to be an important driver of the historical mortality decline (Finch & Crimmins, 2004) and economic growth (Fogel & Costa, 1997). Consequently, understanding the role of early life factors and whether they have changed over time is important for the understanding the improvements in living standards and health over the last two centuries. Using longitudinal data from Southern Sweden this paper evaluates the impact of socioeconomic status and disease exposure on mortality later in life for individuals born in the 20th century. Previous studies have shown that individuals born in the 19th century in years with high infant mortality rates or with smallpox or whooping cough epidemics experienced lower socioeconomic performance and higher levels of adult and old-age mortality, while no effects were seen in relation to exposure to high prices or socioeconomic status of parents. The question addressed in this paper is whether these results persisted for later born cohorts and, if they did not, when did a change take place. In this work we show that females born between 1900 and 1950 in years with high infant mortality rates had greater risks of dying in ages 75-95. For men, an increased risk of death for those exposed was only seen among those who were aged 55-70 and who were born before 1930. We also show that parental socio-economic status started to play a role for adult health in the beginning of the 20th century.

Presented in Session 91: Linked Lives and the Lifecourse