Recent research has shown that the parents of well-educated children live longer than do other parents and that this association is only partly confounded by the parent's own socioeconomic position. However, the relationships between other aspects of children's socioeconomic position (e.g., occupational class and economic resources) and parental mortality have not been examined. Using the Swedish Multi-generation Register that connects parents to their children, this paper studies the associations of children's various socioeconomic resources (education, occupation, and income) and parents' mortality. The models are adjusted for a range of parental socioeconomic resources and include the resources of the parents' partners. In addition to all-cause mortality, five causes of death are analyzed separately (circulatory disease mortality, overall cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer). The results show net associations between all included indicators of children's socioeconomic position and parents' mortality risk, with the clearest association for education. Children's education is significantly associated with all of the examined causes of death except prostate cancer. Breast cancer mortality is negatively related to offspring's education but not the mothers' own education. To conclude, children's education seems to be a key factor compared with other dimensions of socioeconomic position in the offspring generation. This finding suggests that explanations linked to behavioral norms or knowledge are more plausible than those linked to access to material resources. However, it is possible that children's education - to a greater degree than class and income - captures unmeasured parental characteristics. The cause-specific analyses imply that future research should investigate whether offspring's socioeconomic position is linked to the likelihood of developing diseases and/or the chances of treating them. A broader family perspective in the description and explanations of social inequalities in health that includes the younger generation may increase our understanding of why these inequalities persist across the life course.
In 1949-1962, Sweden implemented a 1-y increase in compulsory schooling as a quasi-experiment. Each year, children in a number of municipalities were exposed to the reform and others were kept as controls, allowing us to test the hypothesis that education is causally related to mortality. We studied all children born between 1943 and 1955, in 900 Swedish municipalities, with control for birth-cohort and area differences. Primary outcome measures are all-cause and cause-specific mortality until the end of 2007. The analyses include 1,247,867 individuals, of whom 92,351 died. We found lower all-cause mortality risk in the experimental group after age 40 [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.93-0.99] but not before (HR = 1.03, 95% CI 0.98-1.07) or during the whole follow-up (HR = 0.98, 95% CI 0.95-1.01). After age 40, the experimental group had lower mortality from overall cancer, lung cancer, and accidents. In addition, exposed women had lower mortality from ischemic heart disease, and exposed men lower mortality from overall external causes. In analyses stratified for final educational level, we found lower mortality in the experimental group within the strata that settled for compulsory schooling only (HR = 0.94, 95% CI 0.89-0.99) and compulsory schooling plus vocational training (HR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.88-0.97). Thus, the experimental group had lower mortality from causes known to be related to education. Lower mortality in the experimental group was also found among the least educated, a group that clearly benefited from the reform in terms of educational length. However, all estimates are small and there was no evident impact of the reform on all-cause mortality in all ages.
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The inverse association between education and mortality has grown stronger the last decades in many countries. During the same period, gains in life expectancy have been concentrated to older ages; still, old-age mortality is seldom the focus of attention when analyzing trends in the education-mortality gradient. It is further unknown if increased educational inequalities in mortality are preceded by increased inequalities in morbidity of which hospitalization may be a proxy.
Using administrative population registers from 1971 and onwards, education-specific annual changes in the risk of death and hospital admission were estimated with complimentary log-log models. These risk changes were supplemented by estimations of the ages at which 25, 50, and 75% of the population had been hospitalized or died (after age 60).
The mortality decline among older people increasingly benefitted the well-educated over the less well-educated. This inequality increase was larger for the younger old, and among men. Educational inequalities in the age of a first hospital admission generally followed the development of growing gaps, but at a slower pace than mortality and inequalities did not increase among the oldest individuals.
Education continues to be a significant predictor of health and longevity into old age. That the increase in educational inequalities is greater for mortality than for hospital admissions (our proxy of overall morbidity) may reflect that well-educated individuals gradually have obtained more possibilities or resources to survive a disease than less well-educated individuals have the last four decades.
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In addition to own education and other socioeconomic resources, the education of one's children may be important for individual health and longevity. Mothers and fathers born between 1932 and 1941 were analyzed by linking them to their children in the Swedish Multi-generation Register, which covers the total population. Controlling for parents' education, social class, and income attenuates but does not remove the association between children's education and parents' mortality risk. Shared but unmeasured familial background characteristics were addressed by comparing siblings in the parental generation. In these fixed-effects analyses, comparing parents whose children had tertiary education with parents whose children completed only compulsory schooling (the reference group) yields a hazard ratio of 0.79 (95 % CI: 0.70-0.89) when the socioeconomic position of both parents is controlled for. The relationship is certainly not purely causal, but part of it could be if, for example, well-educated adult children use their resources to find the best available health care for their aging parents. I therefore introduce the concept of "social foreground" and suggest that children's socioeconomic resources may be an important factor in trying to further understand social inequalities in health.
Parents have lower mortality than childless individuals, and one possible explanation is support provided by adult children. Since stroke often results in functional limitations, support from children may be of particular importance. Here, we examine whether the presence of children matters for survival after stroke among older Swedish men and women.
This prospective cohort study linked data from several Swedish population registers. Individuals aged 65 years and older hospitalized for their first ischemic stroke between 1998 and 2002 (33 960 men and 36 189 women) were followed 12 years for survival. Hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were calculated by number of children using Cox proportional hazard regression stratified by sex and marital status and adjusted for education, income and comorbidities.
Childlessness and having only one child was associated with higher mortality after stroke compared with having two children among men and women. The relative survival disadvantage of childless individuals was largest among married women [HR 1.28 (1.18-1.39)] and smallest among married men [1.09 (1.03-1.15)]. The differences in predicted median survival between childless individuals and those with two children were 4 and 7 months among married and unmarried men, and 15 and 9 months among married and unmarried women, respectively.
Having children is associated with a longer survival after stroke among men and women regardless of marital status. Our findings further suggest that the presence of children is especially connected to married women's survival. These results may have implications for the improvement of informal care for childless older individuals.