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Childhood influences on diabetes among older Americans

Latrica E. Best, Pennsylvania State University
Mark D. Hayward, University of Texas
Mira M. Hidajat, Pennsylvania State University

The health experiences of today’s older population are strongly tied to conditions experienced decades earlier in life. Working within a life-course framework, we estimate nested multinomial logistic regression models with data from the 1998 wave of the Health and Retirement Study to evaluate the influence of a number of theoretically important aspects of childhood to identify the major facets of childhood associated with adult diabetes. We also investigate the core mediating mechanisms potentially linking childhood conditions with diabetes – adult achievement processes and adult lifestyle factors such as obesity. The results show that persons born in the South, with low levels of educational attainment, with low SES in the family of origin, and with poor childhood health all had significantly higher odds of reported diabetes. We also found that obesity, smoking, and socioeconomic achievement processes are powerful mechanisms linking childhood disadvantage with a greater odds of diabetes at older ages.

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Presented in Session 8: Longevity: the influence of kin ties and early-life conditions