Do Childhood Circumstances Predict Adult Biomarkers?

Iliana V. Kohler, University of Pennsylvania
Beth J. Soldo, University of Pennsylvania

It is well known that childhood circumstances affect adult self-reported health, specific chronic diseases, disability and mortality. In this paper we address the question: do childhood circumstances affect mid-life biologic risk factors for disease? We specifically consider as outcomes, levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and high-density cholesterol (HDL) as measured in the 2006 Health and Retirement Study. Our approach is grounded in a life course perspective. We adjust for current demographic, health and socioeconomic variables. We find that father’s education and being in poor health as child predict the risk of having unfavorable HDL levels above age 50, even after controlling for current SES characteristics. Mother’s education is strongly associated with HbA1c: respondents with better educated mothers are less likely to have elevated levels of HbA1c, an association that remains statistically significant after accounting for current SES and health characteristics.

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Presented in Session 12: Life Course Perspectives on Aging