In this study the contribution of childhood environment to the explanation of socio-economic inequalities in health in adulthood is examined. Childhood environment was measured using indicators of social, socio-economic and material aspects. Retrospective data obtained from an oral interview, part of the Longitudinal Study on Socio-Economic Health Differences (a longitudinal study in the South East of the Netherlands), were used. Indicators for socio-economic status at adult age were educational and occupational level, whilst health indicators included perceived general health and self-reports of chronic conditions. The percentage reduction in odds ratios of education and occupation after adjustment for childhood environment was used to estimate the contribution of childhood environment. The results suggest that a substantial part of differences in health between educational and occupational groups can be attributed to differences in childhood environment. Educational level of the mother, occupation of the father and financial situation of the family are the most important childhood characteristics in the explanation of socio-economic health differences in adult life. Different mechanisms of explanation concerning the contribution of childhood environment to socio-economic differences in adult life are discussed.

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Social Science & Medicine
Erasmus School of Economics