Objectives: We assess the temporal properties and biosocial mechanisms underlying the associations between early-life SES and later health. Using a life course design spanning adolescence to older adulthood, we assess how early-life and various dimensions of adult SES are associated with immune and metabolic function in different life stages and examine possible bio-behavioral and psychosocial mechanisms underlying these associations.
Method: Data for this study come from three national studies that collectively cover multiple stages of the life course (Add Health, MIDUS, and HRS). We estimated generalized linear models to examine the prospective associations between early-life SES, adult SES, and biomarkers of chronic inflammation and metabolic disorder assessed at follow-up. We further conducted formal tests of mediation to assess the role of adult SES in linking early SES to biological functions.
Results: We found that early-life SES exerted consistent protective effects for metabolic disorder across the life span, but waned with time for CRP. The protective effect of respondent education remained persistent for CRP but declined with age for metabolic disorder. Adult income and assets primarily protected respondents against physiological dysregulation in middle and old ages, but not in early adulthood.
Discussion: These findings are the first to elucidate the life course patterns of SES that matter for underlying physiological functioning during the aging process to produce social gradients in health.
SOURCE: Yang, Y. Schorpp, K. Boen C. Johnson, M. Kathleen, M. “Socioeconomic Status and Biological Risks for Health and Illness across the Life Course.” The Journals of Gerontology, Series B, g by 108, 25 September 2018.
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