Childhood environment, intergenerational mobility, and adult health--evidence from Swedish data.
STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to examine whether body height is associated with intergenerational social mobility, and to determine the importance of intergenerational mobility for adult health. DESIGN--Information from a survey conducted by Statistics Sweden on a randomly selected sample was supplemented with mortality data during a six year follow up. PARTICIPANTS--The sample was identified in 1980-81 and comprised 14,757 persons aged 16-74 years. The non-response rate was 14%. In the current study a subsample of 9203 persons aged 30-74 years at the time of the interview was used. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Information on adult height, socioeconomic status during childhood and in adult life, self perceived general health, and self reported longstanding illness at the time of the interview was supplemented with mortality data during the follow up period. The direction of the intergenerational mobility was defined as upward mobility, downward mobility, and no intergenerational mobility. The chances of falling into each of these three groups for tall, medium, and short persons were compared. The three mobility groups were also compared with regard to general health, longstanding illness and early death. The tall third of the sample was upwardly mobile to a larger extent than the short third, while the short third was more likely to be downwardly mobile. The upwardly mobile group perceived their health as bad much less than was expected. It also included a smaller number of persons with longstanding illness. Mortality, however, was not lower in this group. CONCLUSIONS--Childhood environment influences height, height is linked to upward mobility, and upward mobility is linked to better health. This is one way in which childhood environment has an impact on adult health.