Adolescent expectations of early death predict young adult socioeconomic status


Nguyen, Quynh C.; Hussey, Jon M.; Halpern, Carolyn T.; Villaveces, Andres; Marshall, Stephen W.; Siddiqi, Arjumand; & Poole, Charles (2012). Adolescent expectations of early death predict young adult socioeconomic status. Social Science and Medicine. vol. 74 (9) pp. 1452-1460 , PMCID: PMC3846180


Among adolescents, expectations of early death have been linked to future risk behaviors. These expectations may also reduce personal investment in education and training, thereby lowering adult socioeconomic status attainment. The importance of socioeconomic status is highlighted by pervasive health inequities and dramatic differences in life expectancy among education and income groups. The objectives of this study were to investigate patterns of change in perceived chances of living to age 35 (Perceived Survival Expectations; PSE), predictors of PSE, and associations between PSE and future socioeconomic status attainment. We utilized the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) initiated in 1994-95 among 20,745 adolescents in grades 7-12 with follow-up interviews in 1996 (Wave II), 2001-02 (Wave III) and 2008 (Wave IV; ages 24-32). At Wave I, 14% reported ≤ 50% chance of living to age 35 and older adolescents reported lower PSE than younger adolescents. At Wave III, PSE were similar across age. Changes in PSE from Wave I to III were moderate, with 89% of respondents reporting no change (56%), one level higher (22%) or one level lower (10%) in a 5-level PSE variable. Higher block group poverty rate, perceptions that the neighborhood is unsafe, and less time in the U.S. (among the foreign-born) were related to low PSE at Waves I and III. Low PSE at Waves I and III predicted lower education attainment and personal earnings at Wave IV in multinomial logistic regression models controlling for confounding factors such as previous family socioeconomic status, individual demographic characteristics, and depressive symptoms. Anticipation of an early death is prevalent among adolescents and predictive of lower future socioeconomic status. Low PSE reported early in life may be a marker for worse health trajectories.


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Journal Article

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Social Science and Medicine


Nguyen, Quynh C.
Hussey, Jon M.
Halpern, Carolyn T.
Villaveces, Andres
Marshall, Stephen W.
Siddiqi, Arjumand
Poole, Charles

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