Summary: The financial circumstances a child experiences impact their well-being between the ages of 41 and 65.
Source: University of Exeter
Experiencing poverty in childhood has a particular impact on well-being in adulthood around middle age, according to new research.
A new study conducted at the University of Exeter has concluded that a person’s financial circumstances in childhood were significantly linked to their sense of well-being once they reached the age bracket of 41–65.
For adults aged 18–40, only their adulthood financial circumstances were linked to well-being, while for adults aged over 65, neither childhood nor adulthood finances were important to their well-being.
The findings, published in Applied Research in Quality of Life, emerge from more than 3,000 responses to the Smartline National Survey, made up of a representative sample of U.K. adults.
Lead author Professor Karyn Morrissey said, “Our research adds to the evidence that childhood is a critical period for well-being in middle age. This indicates that childhood circumstances can come back to ‘haunt’ us in middle age, which is often a key time in terms of parenting and career progression.
“We need to address childhood poverty as a matter of urgency, to help benefit the cycle of mental health from one generation to the next.
“The impact of financial hardship in childhood on well-being in adulthood found in this study is particularly concerning as levels of child poverty increase in the U.K.”
About this neurodevelopment and poverty research news
Using linear regression models and mediation analysis this paper examines whether childhood financial circumstances is associated with adult mental wellbeing and to what extent any association is explained by adult financial circumstances. Adjusting for age and highest education attainment, we found that childhood financial circumstances predict wellbeing in adulthood.
However, stratifying by age (respondents aged 18–40, 41–65 and 66 years plus), a more complicated pattern of associations emerged with potential cohort and age effects emerging.
Only adult financial circumstances significantly impact adult wellbeing in our youngest group, while neither childhood nor adult financial circumstances are significantly associated with wellbeing in the oldest age group (66 years plus).
However, both childhood and adult financial circumstances were significantly associated with wellbeing in middle age, and this effect was mostly direct (OR-1.09: CI 95%: -1.63, -0.17) rather than indirect (OR-0.08: CI 95%: -0.17, -0.01).
This research adds to the evidence base that childhood is a critical period for wellbeing in middle age (41–65 years). Previous research has found that subjective wellbeing plays an important role in physical and mental health outcomes in adulthood.
The impact of financial hardship in childhood on wellbeing in adulthood found in this study is particularly concerning as levels of child poverty increase in the UK.