Poverty, Fear of Loss in Childhood Can Lead to Poor Health as Adult

Low socioeconomic status and fear of abandonment early in life can lead to poor health in adulthood regardless of adult socioeconomic status, according to a new study from Rice University in Houston.

The study, published in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine, examined the self-reported measures of childhood socioeconomic status; attachment orientations, such as fear of abandonment or difficulty in forming relationships; stress; and adult health of 213 participants from 2005 to 2011.

The study found that people who were in the lowest 25 percent of the sample for socioeconomic status as children had 65 percent worse self-reported health as adults.

The researchers added that this poor health later in life occurred regardless of adult socioeconomic status.

“Low socioeconomic status places burdens on parents where they are less available to their kids at times,” said Dr. Chris Fagundes, an assistant professor of psychology at Rice and the study’s co-author. “This can lead to the development of ‘attachment orientations,’ which include fear of abandonment or difficulty in forming close relationships, that can compromise adult health.”

Fagundes and his co-author, Dr. Kyle Murdock, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychology, also found that a person’s biological capacity to regulate their emotions — including stress — had a correlation to overall health.

“If individuals are better at managing negative feelings and levels of stress, they are more likely to be healthy as adults,” Murdock said. “However, if they are not so good at managing emotions, they are more likely to be less healthy.”

Fagundes and Murdock said they hope the study will encourage further exploration of why low socioeconomic status during childhood is associated with an increased risk of experiencing health disparities in adulthood.

“Ultimately, early childhood is a critical time for adult health, regardless of whether you move up the socioeconomic ladder as an adult,” they concluded.

Source: Rice University