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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 12;108(15):6032-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016970108. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

The long shadow cast by childhood physical and mental problems on adult life.

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1
Institute for Fiscal Studies, London WC1E 7AE, United Kingdom.

Abstract

In this article we assess and compare long-term adult socioeconomic status impacts from having experienced psychological and physical health problems in childhood. To do so, we use unique prospective data from the British National Child Development Study, a continuing panel study of a cohort of 17,634 children born in Great Britain during a single week in March 1958. To date there have been nine waves for this birth cohort to monitor their physical, educational, and social development, during childhood (at birth and 7, 11, and 16 y) and adulthood (age 23, 33, 42, 46, and 50 y). Excellent contemporaneous information exists throughout childhood on physical and psychological health, captured by doctor and nurse-led medical examinations and detailed parental and teacher questionnaires. This information is combined with a wealth of contemporaneous information on adult health and economic experiences collected from cohort members. Information includes their economic circumstances (earnings, labor supply, and other sources of family income), physical and psychological health, and relationship status. Large effects are found due to childhood psychological problems on the ability of affected children to work and earn as adults and on intergenerational and within-generation social mobility. Adult family incomes are reduced by 28% by age 50 y, with sustained impacts on labor supply, marriage stability, and the conscientiousness and agreeableness components of the "Big Five" personality traits. Effects of psychological health disorders during childhood are far more important over a lifetime than physical health problems.

PMID:
21444801
PMCID:
PMC3076863
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1016970108
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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