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Understanding the dimensions of socioeconomic status that influence toddlers’ health: unique impact of lack of money for basic needs in Quebec’s birth cohort
  1. Louise Séguin1,2,
  2. Qian Xu2,
  3. Lise Gauvin1,2,
  4. Maria-Victoria Zunzunegui1,2,
  5. Louise Potvin1,2,
  6. Katherine L Frohlich1,2
  1. 1Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal, Canada
  2. 2Groupe de recherche interdisciplinaire en santé (GRIS)
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L Séguin
 Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3 J7;


Study objectives: To examine the unique impact of financial difficulties as measured by a lack of money for basic needs on the occurrence of health problems between the ages of 17 and 29 months, controlling for mother’s level of education and neonatal health problems.

Design and participants: Analyses were performed on the 29 month data of the Quebec longitudinal study of child development. This longitudinal study followed up a birth cohort annually. Interviews were conducted in the home with the mother in 98.8% of cases. This information was supplemented with data from birth records. At 29 months, the response rate was 94.2% of the initial sample (n = 1946). The main outcome measures were mothers’ report of acute health problems, asthma episodes, and hospitalisation as well as growth delay and a composite index of health problems (acute problems, asthma attack, growth delay).

Main results: Children raised in a family experiencing a serious lack of money for basic needs during the preceding year were more likely to be reported by their mothers as presenting acute health problems, a growth delay, two or more health problems, and to have been hospitalised for the first time within the past few months as compared with babies living in a family not experiencing a lack of money for basic needs regardless of the mother’s level of education and of neonatal health problems.

Conclusion: Financial difficulties as measured by a lack of money for basic needs have a significant and unique impact on toddlers’ health.

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  • Funding: this study was made possible through a research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP-77835-PSB-CFCA-32950).

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

  • Louise Potvin holds the CHSRF/CIHR Chair in Community Approaches and Health Inequality of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CPI-0526-05) and Katherine L Frohlich was recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (765-2000-0054CHR1) during the preparation of this manuscript. The data collection was carried out by the Direction Santé Québec of the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

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