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Am J Public Health. 1999 October; 89(10): 1522–1528.
PMCID: PMC1508793

The role of socioeconomic status gradients in explaining differences in US adolescents' health.


OBJECTIVE: This study sought to determine whether socioeconomic status (SES) gradients exist among US adolescents for self-rated health and for 5 diseases that cause serious adolescent and continuing adult morbidity. METHODS: Baseline data from 15,483 adolescent and parental surveys from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were used. SES indicators included parental education and occupation, and household income. Dependent variables included self-rated health and the presence of depression, obesity, asthma, suicide attempt in the past year, and prior sexually transmitted disease. RESULTS: SES gradients were found for self-rated health, depression, and obesity (P < .01). Suicide attempt was linearly associated with income (P < .01). After adjustment for other SES and sociodemographic factors, education and income remained independent correlates of both depression and obesity; income remained an independent correlate of attempted suicide. CONCLUSIONS: Differences in susceptibility to socially mediated etiologic mechanisms of disease may exist during adolescence. Understanding the sociostructural context and patterning of adolescents' lives is crucial to clearly understanding health and disease etiology throughout the course of life.

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