Social determinants of health and function in later life: a life-course approach

The likelihood of living a long and healthy life is, in part, shaped by social conditions experienced throughout the life course. Using nationally representative survey data linked to information from the Swedish National Cause of Death Registry, we showed that those who reported having grown up in a broken family (without one or both biological parents) were at a higher risk of dying before reaching old age (before the age of 70) than those who reported having grown up with both biological parents. Similarly, an increased risk of premature mortality was also observed among those who were unmarried, rather than married or cohabiting, in midlife1. In an ongoing study, based on nationally representative longitudinal survey data, we are exploring the associations between physical and psychosocial work environment in midlife and health during old age. Preliminary results show that both poor psychosocial and physical work environment in midlife are associated with an increased likelihood of psychological distress, musculoskeletal pain, and physical impairment during old age. Moreover, poor psychosocial work environment, but not physical work environment, is associated with higher rates of poor global self-rated health and cognitive impairment during old age.

  1. Fors S, Lennartsson C, Lundberg O. Live long and prosper? Childhood living conditions, marital status, social class in adulthood and mortality during mid-life: a cohort study. Scand J Public Health 2011; 39(2):179-186.