Background Knowledge on health inequalities in early life is less complete and less consistent than with the well-documented differentials in the adult population. This study examines the presence and strength of the association between parental education and mortality during different periods of childhood and young adulthood, and changes in the association over time.
Methods Longitudinal individual level data were used in a register follow-up of 15 years. The data include an 11% sample of the Finnish population with an oversample of 80% of all deaths between the ages of 1 and 24. Mortalities and relative indices of inequality (RII) were calculated by parental education, sex, age group and cause of death.
Results Lower parental education was associated with a higher risk of mortality during the whole period of 1990–2004. The differentials were largest among 1–4-year-old children (RII=2.4, 95% CI 1.57 to 3.56 for males and RII=4.5, 2.71 to 7.32 for females) and among young men aged 15–19 (RII=2.4, 2.00 to 2.98). The educational gradient was sharper in accidental and violent causes of death, but deaths from diseases contributed to differentials for both sexes among the youngest and the oldest.
Conclusion The association between parental education and mortality in young age was consistent, although distinctively patterned by sex, age and cause of death. The results provide some support for the idea of equalisation of health inequalities during the child–youth transition. The convergence of differences in late childhood, and re-emergence in early adulthood, particularly among men, was, however, related to changes in the cause composition of deaths.
- Child mortality
- age factors
- socio-economic factors
- social inequalities
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Funding The study was supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland and Academy of Finland.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.