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Parents’ labour market participation as a predictor of children’s health and wellbeing: a comparative study in five Nordic countries
  1. C Reinhardt Pedersen,
  2. M Madsen
  1. National Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr C Reinhardt Pedersen, National Institute of Public Health, Svanemøllevej 25, DK-2100, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark;


Objective: To study the association between parents’ labour market participation and children’s health and wellbeing.

Design: Parent reported data on health and wellbeing among their children from the survey Health and welfare among children and adolescents in the Nordic countries, 1996. A cross sectional study of random samples of children and their families in five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden).

Participants: A total of 10 317 children aged 2–17 years.

Results: Children in families with no parents employed in the past six months had higher prevalence of recurrent psychosomatic symptoms (odds ratio 1.67, 95% confidence intervals 1.16 to 2.40), chronic illness (odds ratio 1.35, 95% confidence intervals 1.00 to 1.84), and low wellbeing (odds ratio 1.47, 95% confidence intervals 1.12 to 1.94). Social class, family type, parents’ immigrant status, gender and age of the child, respondent, and country were included as confounders. When social class, family type and the parents’ immigrant status (one or more born in the Nordic country versus both born elsewhere) were introduced into the model, the odds ratios were reduced but were still statistically significant. Health outcomes and parents’ labour market participation were associated in all five countries.

Conclusions: Children in families with no parents employed in the past six months had higher prevalence of ill health and low wellbeing in the five Nordic countries despite differences in employment rates and social benefits.

  • children
  • unemployment
  • health

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