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Does financial strain explain the association between children’s morbidity and parental non-employment?
  1. Charlotte Reinhardt Pedersen,
  2. Mette Madsen,
  3. Lennart Köhler
  1. National Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrsC Reinhardt Pedersen
 National Institute of Public Health, Svanemøllevej 25, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark;


Objectives: To investigate whether family financial resources explain the association between parental labour market participation and children’s health in families in Denmark and Sweden.

Design: Parent reported questionnaire data from the survey of health and welfare among children and adolescents in the Nordic countries, 1996.

Participants: 4299 children aged 2–17 years.

Measures: Three indicators measured children’s health: recurrent psychosomatic symptoms, chronic illness, and prescribed medicine. Four variables and a composite index were used to measure family financial resources. The variable on family labour market participation consisted of five groups according to family type and parents’ labour market participation.

Results: Children in families with one or both parents without paid work had an increased prevalence of recurrent psychosomatic symptoms (odds ratio from 1.52 to 3.20) and chronic illnesses (odds ratio from 1.43 to 2.25), whereas the use of prescribed medicine did not differ (odds ratio from 0.67 to 1.15). The five indicators on family financial resources only slightly reduced the odds ratios for recurrent psychosomatic symptoms (odds ratio from 1.12 to 2.75) and chronic illnesses (odds ratio from 1.34 to 2.22), and the odds ratios for children’s use of prescribed medicine remained unchanged and non-significant (odds ratio from 0.62 to 1.18).

Conclusions: Financial strain associated with non-employment does not explain the increased prevalence of health problems among children in families affected by non-employment in Denmark and Sweden. However, the associations between family labour market participation and children’s health differ according to family financial status.

  • unemployment
  • social inequality
  • family
  • children’s health
  • psychosomatic symptoms
  • chronic illness

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  • Funding: this study has received financial support from the Joint Committee of the Nordic Social Science Research Councils, the Danish Research Councils, and the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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