Health and health behaviours in adolescence as predictors of education and socioeconomic status in adulthood – a longitudinal study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The positive association of health with education level and socioeconomic status (SES) is well-established. Two theoretical frameworks have been delineated to understand main mechanisms leading to socioeconomic health inequalities: social causation and health selection but how these work in adolescence is poorly known. We studied if adolescent health and health behaviours predict higher education and higher SES in adulthood and if family background and school performance in adolescence explain these associations. Methods: Surveys on health and health behaviours were sent to representative samples of 12–18-year-old Finns in 1981–1997 every second year (response rate 77.8%, N = 55,682). The survey data were linked with the respondents’ and their parents’ socioeconomic data from the Finnish national registries. Both latent variables, namely, health (perceived health, health complaints, chronic disease), health-compromising behaviours (smoking status, drunkenness frequency), and family background (parents’ occupation-based SES, education, family type) and variables directly measuring health-enhancing behaviours (toothbrushing, physical activity) and school performance were used to predict higher education and higher occupation-based SES at age 34. Logistic regression analysis and structural equation models (SEM) were used. Results: In logistic regression analyses, good health, health-enhancing behaviours, and lack of health-compromising behaviours were related to higher education and SES, also after controlling for family background and school performance. In the SEM analyses, good health, health-enhancing behaviours, and lack of health-compromising behaviours directly predicted higher SES and higher education, although the standardised coefficients were low (from 0.034 to 0.12). In all models, health, lack of health-compromising behaviours, and health-enhancing behaviours predicted school performance, which in turn, predicted the outcomes, suggesting indirect routes to these. Good socioeconomic prospects in terms of family background predicted good health, healthy behaviours, and good school performance in adolescence and higher SES and higher education in adulthood. Conclusion: Health and health behaviours in adolescence predicted education and SES in adulthood. Even though the relationships were modest, they support the health selection hypotheses and emphasise the importance of adolescence for health inequalities during the life-course. Health and health behaviours were strongly associated with school performance and family background which together modified the paths from health and health behaviours to the outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1178
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Education level
  • Health
  • Health behaviours
  • Health selection
  • Longitudinal study
  • SES
  • Social causation
  • Socioeconomic status

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Health and health behaviours in adolescence as predictors of education and socioeconomic status in adulthood – a longitudinal study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this