The primary objective was to investigate the life course hypotheses – sensitive period, chain of risks, and accumulation of risks – in relation to financial hardship and psychological distress in old age. We used two Swedish longitudinal surveys based on nationally representative samples. The first survey includes people 18–75 years old with multiple waves, the second survey is a longitudinal continuation, including people 76 + years old. The analytical sample included 2990 people at baseline. Financial hardship was assessed in childhood (retrospectively), at the mean ages of 54, 61, 70, and 81 years. Psychological distress (self-reported anxiety and depressive symptoms) was assessed at the same ages. Path analysis with WLSMV estimation was used. There was a direct path from financial hardship in childhood to psychological distress at age 70 (0.26, p = 0.002). Financial hardship in childhood was associated with increased risk of psychological distress and financial hardship both at baseline (age 54), and later. Financial hardship, beyond childhood, was not independently associated with psychological distress at age 81. Higher levels of education and employment decreased the negative effects of financial hardship in childhood on the risk of psychological distress and financial hardship later on. There was a bi-directional relationship between psychological distress and financial hardship; support for health selection was slightly higher than for social causation. We found that psychological distress in old age was affected by financial hardship in childhood through a chain of risks that included psychological distress earlier in life. In addition, financial hardship in childhood seemed to directly affect psychological distress in old age, independent of other measured circumstances (i.e., chains of risks). Education and employment could decrease the effect of an adverse financial situation in childhood on later-life psychological distress. We did not find support for accumulation of risks when including tests of all hypotheses in the same model.
Social Science & Medicine – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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