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Adv Life Course Res. 2010 Dec 1;15(4):132-146.

Childhood Morbidity and Health in Early Adulthood: Life course linkages in a high morbidity context.


This paper examines whether morbidity in early and later childhood is associated with health later in life. I investigate the relationship between five types of childhood morbidity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease among Guatemalan adults who experienced high levels of morbidity in childhood. The analysis is based on the Human Capital Study (2002-2004), a recent follow-up of the INCAP Longitudinal Study conducted between 1969 and 1977. I find that most types of childhood morbidity are associated with poorer adult health, independent of family background, adult socioeconomic status, and health behaviors. Higher levels of infections in childhood were associated with a low level of high density lipoprotein (HDL), and higher level of triglycerides, plasma glucose, waist circumference, and obesity (but not hypertension). These results are consistent with the literature that finds that childhood morbidity is associated with increased morbidity and mortality at older ages. However, diarrheal disease in later childhood was associated with lower levels of some risk factors, as measured by triglycerides and plasma glucose, suggesting that exposure to bacteria after infancy may be beneficial for some measures of adult health.

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