Trajectories of functional health: The 'long arm' of childhood health and socioeconomic factors

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Few studies have specifically examined trajectories of functional health status or estimated the extent to which they are influenced by childhood health and socioeconomic conditions. This study examines how circumstances associated with early life may shape the level and progression of functional limitations among adults at or near retirement. Employing data from the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS), it estimates latent growth curve models (LGM) of functional limitation. The results demonstrate that functional health trajectories in old age continue to be shaped by childhood health and socioeconomic circumstances. Poor childhood health and disadvantaged social origins are associated with both more functional limitations at baseline and higher rates of increase over time. This association is net of baseline adult chronic disease and socioeconomic status. While both childhood and adult factors influence the baseline level of functional limitation, only childhood health and socioeconomic status are associated with the rate of change in limitations over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-861
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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