The Influence of Early Life Health Conditions on Life Course Health
68 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 18, 2020
Between the fetal origins literature and the literature exploring the influence of early health (and poverty) on longer-term health, we have learned a good deal about life course ties between early health and later health. In this paper, we expand this research to look at the links between different dimensions of early-life health and multiple life course outcomes including the age of onset of serious cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and job-related health outcomes such as temporary or permanent withdrawals from the labor market. The four dimensions of childhood health cover mental, physical, self-rated general health and severe headaches or migraines. We further explore potential mediating outcomes (schooling, marital status, and having children), and, in addition, test if the effects of our early health conditions operate through these mediating factors. More generally, we assess the importance of omitted variables using a test proposed by Oster (2019). The data set we use includes 21 countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. We find that the different dimensions of childhood health have unique ties to later outcomes. This is best illustrated for men, for whom early mental health problems play a stronger role for all life course job-related health outcomes, but early poor or fair general health is more strongly linked to the spike in onset of CVDs occurring in their late 40s. For women, these links between childhood health dimensions and life course outcomes are less clear-cut than for men. The spike in onset of CVDs, in their late 40s, is driven by those who had severe headaches or migraines as a child. In terms of life course job-related health outcomes, women with mental health conditions and poor or fair general health do worse while those with early physical health problems generally do better. This latter finding could be related to greater parental investments in education for these women.
Keywords: early-life health, mental health, onset of conditions, life course models, SHARE
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