Social equalization in youth: evidence from a cross-sectional British survey

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Abstract

Background

A number of studies have suggested that social inequalities in health disappear or are attenuated in early adolescence possibly due to changing risk exposures. The present study examines social equalization in youth in a representative sample of British households with children aged 0–18 years.

Methods

Secondary analysis of a cross-sectional survey of a representative sample of British households with children and youth with parent-reported less than good health, long-standing illness, and chest problems as outcomes.

Results

Data were available on 15 756 children aged 0–18 years in 8541 households in the third sweep (2001) of the British government's Families and Children Study. Parent-rated health status, long-standing illness, and chest problems all showed social patterning among children who were 0–11 years of age. Among 12- to 14-year-olds, the social gradients in these outcomes noted in childhood associated with income, social class, and education were lost but inequalities in parent-rated health status and long-standing illness but not chest problems persisted associated with measures of household work status and wealth. Among 15- to 18-year-olds, income inequalities appeared to reassert themselves, particularly among girls, but gradients by maternal education noted among 0- to 11-year-olds were absent in both sexes. Inequalities persisted with measures of household worklessness and wealth.

Conclusions

In this cross-sectional study, the social equalization in youth was noted for some health outcomes and by some measures of socioeconomic status but not for others. Inequalities in parent-rated health status and long-standing illness persist among young people in workless households and those experiencing severe material hardship.

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