Early Life Financial Adversity and Respiratory Function in Midlife: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study

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Abstract

Data from the 1958 National Child Development Study (1958–2004) were used in a prospective study of the relation of financial adversity in childhood to lung function in midlife. It was hypothesized that such a relation would be found and would be mediated partly by early housing deprivation, partly by continuities in social disadvantage, and partly by smoking. These hypotheses were confirmed. The mediating variables explained nearly two-thirds of the observed relation. The strongest individual pathway from early financial hardship to adult lung function was through poor housing in childhood. Poor housing increased the risk of educational failure, which in turn was strongly related to less-advantaged social class. Lack of educational qualifications and less-advantaged social class independently increased the risk of higher levels of smoking. Mediating variables therefore acted in part as indicators of environmental exposures and in part through their links to adult smoking. Early financial adversity is associated with adult lung function partly through poor housing and partly through pathways involving continuities in social disadvantage and the associated environmental exposures and behaviors.

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