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Eur J Public Health. 2006 Feb;16(1):41-7.

Socioeconomic status and health behaviour patterns through adolescence: results from a prospective cohort study in Norway.

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Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research, Oslo, Norway.



In this paper, we investigate cross-sectional and prospective relationships between various socioeconomic indicators and different health behaviours among boys and girls at ages 13-21, and whether socioeconomic status (SES) is related to changes in health behaviour over time.


The study is based on a 10-year, two-generation prospective cohort study of health and lifestyle factors among a sample of Norwegian adolescents and their parents. Data presented here were collected at the ages of 13 (baseline), 15, 18 and 21. Parental and adolescent reports of socioeconomic factors were assessed along with a number of health-enhancing and health-compromising behaviours, both as single behaviours and as part of health behaviour indices.


Relatively few significant relationships are observed between parental occupation and adolescents' reported health behaviour when the latter is analysed as single behaviours. A significant, but weak, social gradient in health-enhancing behaviour is observed when measuring health behaviour as composite indices rather than single forms of behaviour. This is apparent both when applying parental SES variables or adolescents' own educational aspirations as proxy measures of their socioeconomic status.


Future investigations of the presence of a social gradient in adolescent health behaviour should focus on composite measures of health behaviour. Further research is needed on potential mediating mechanisms behind the SES-health behaviour relationships in youth.

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