Économie et Statistique n° 411 - 2008 Is the ISO 14001 Standard Effective? - How Senior Citizens' Health is Affected by Their Social Background and Their Parents' Life Expectancy - Unemployment and Invalidity after 50: Two Alternative Routes for Senior Citizens in Poor Health
How Senior Citizens' Health is Affected by Their Social Background and Their Parents' Life Expectancy
Are the descendants of executives and intellectuals healthier than those of manual workers? Does their parents’ life expectancy influence their health as adults? These two questions examine the potential lack of equal opportunities when it comes to health. The first question has already been the subject of research projects: the influence of an individual’s original social background may stem from the direct effect of childhood living conditions on adult health and the indirect effect of the child’s original background on his socio-economic status later. The second question, concerning health being passed down from one generation to the next, has received little attention. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that parents’ health has a direct influence on that of their adult children, not only because of a shared genetic heritage, but also because of similar health preferences and children copying their parents’ behaviour on health-related issues. Using data from the Share survey, this research explores, for the first time in France, the effect of both parents' professions and health on the health of their descendants in adulthood, whilst controlling for their socio-economic characteristics. Comparing senior citizens’ health distributions against their original social background and the life expectancy of their direct ancestors indicates a lack of equal opportunities in health for senior citizens. As well as being connected with the individual’s current social situation, health in adulthood is directly affected by the mother’s socio-economic status, while the father’s socio-economic status has an indirect influence by determining the child’s socio-economic status. It has also been observed that health is passed down from one generation to the next: health in adulthood is influenced by the father’s life expectancy and, in particular, his vital status.