Death of a parent in childhood can diminish both the nurturing that promotes healthy development, and household income. We consider, for the first time, whether this adverse childhood experience is associated with self-rated health decades later, among seniors and whether this lifelong effect is different for women and men.
The International Mobility in Aging (IMIAS) study is a prospective cohort with survey information and biophysical measures and markers from 2000 community-dwelling 65-74 year olds in Canada, Colombia, Brazil and Albania. We assessed the independent impact of death of a parent, early hunger, and witnessing violence, while controlling for current income sufficiency and other early adversities on self-rated health using baseline (2012) IMIAS data. Regressions grouping and then separating women and men were compared.
Approximately 17% of the 1991 participants had experienced early parental loss. Overall 56% rated their health as good however parental loss predicted poorer adult health, as did early hunger but not witnessing violence. Disaggregated analyses revealed that the health consequences of parental loss were significant only among men (p = 0.000 versus p = 0.210 for women) whereas early hunger predicted poor self-rated health for both (p = 0.000).
Parental loss should be considered as a potent adverse childhood experience with life-long consequences for health. The gender difference in its effect, speaks to unidentified and modifiable traits that appear to be more common among women and that may build resilience to long-term harms of early parental death.
2015. Vol. 10, no 4, e0120762