Intergenerational relations and social mobility: Social inequality in physical function in old age

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BACKGROUND: The concept of social foreground describes how adult offspring's socioeconomic resources may influence older adults' health and several studies have shown an association between socioeconomic position of adult offspring and the health of their older parents. However, little is known about the factors that generate these associations. We study 1) how adult offspring's social class is associated with physical function (PF) among older adults, 2) whether geographical closeness and contact frequency with offspring modify the association, and 3) whether intergenerational social mobility of offspring is associated with PF of older adults.

METHOD: Data are obtained from the 2002 (n = 621) and 2011 (n = 931) waves of the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old. Multivariable linear regression models were employed and adjusted for own and partner's prior social class and offspring's age and gender.

RESULTS: Compared to offspring with non-manual occupation, offsprings with manual occupation was associated with poorer PF in older adults (-0.14, CI95%:-0.28;0.00). In stratified analyses, offspring's social class was only associated with older adults' PF among those who lived geographically close. Contact frequency between the offspring and the older adults did not modify the associations. Older adults whose offspring experienced downward intergenerational social mobility were associated with the poorest PF.

CONCLUSION: This study supports evidence of a relationship between social foreground and older adults' PF where geographical closeness and social mobility are important components.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Volume80
Pages (from-to)58-64
Number of pages7
ISSN0167-4943
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

ID: 204339662