A recent study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) based in Germany, studied the impact of socioeconomic status (SES) during childhood and its later effects on health satisfaction across the course of an individual’s life. This study supports the notion of a “long arm of childhood conditions” that is defined in the study as “an enduring influence of early life conditions on adult morbidity and mortality.”

Nadia Steiber, one of the researchers, believes that a higher socioeconomic status, in numerous situations, tends to promote good health and healthy aging. Individuals that tend to enjoy better health at all stages of their life are commonly those with higher levels of education, in higher occupational positions, and are financially stable with greater access to resources.

Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at a higher risk of an earlier onset and a faster progression of functional health problems later in life. They are at a higher risk of developing, and dying from, cardiovascular diseases in adulthood. Although the health implications of low socioeconomic status during childhood may not be visible in mid-life, childhood conditions can still show a lagged effect on health satisfaction in later life when chronic diseases start being felt. Additionally, the mortality risk from some cancers is higher among those of lower socioeconomic status in childhood.

For mid-life, parental education mainly has indirect effects. Since childhood conditions set the path to adult attainment and later health exposures, this again implies that policies that help to mitigate early disadvantages are of central importance. Given that effects of low parental education on health satisfaction in mid-life are indirect and irreversible, later intervention can make improvements to earlier disadvantages.

However, the research performed that produced these conclusions has some limitations. Using a subjective measure of health, which is one’s own satisfaction with their current health, is subjective and differs from person to person. Also, self-assessing health is somewhat associated with physical health and even more strongly associated with mental health as age increases.

The results obtained from this research suggest that the most appropriate time for intervention is childhood. Improving the socioeconomic conditions and health-relevant environments earlier in life lays the foundation for a positive socioeconomic status trajectory, and reduces health-related problems later on in life.

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