Effects of Childhood Family Conditions on Later-Life Mortality: Evidence from the Utah Population Database, 1850-2002

Ken R. Smith, University of Utah
Geraldine P. Mineau, University of Utah
Gilda Garibotti, Huntsman Cancer Institute
Richard Kerber, Huntsman Cancer Institute

We examine how key early family circumstances affect mortality risks decades later. Early life conditions are measured by parental mortality, parental fertility (e.g., offspring sibship size, parental age at offspring birth), religious upbringing, and parental SES. Prior to these early life conditions are familial and genetic factors that affect life-span. Accordingly, we consider the role of parental and familial longevity on adult mortality risks. We analyze the large Utah Population Database (UPDB) which contains a vast amount of genealogical and other vital/health data that contain full life histories of individuals and hundreds of their relatives. To control for unobserved heterogeneity, we analyze sib-pair data for 12,000 sib-pairs using frailty models. We found modest effects of key childhood conditions (birth order, sibship size, parental religiosity, parental SES, and parental death in childhood). Our measures of familial aggregation of longevity were large and suggest an alternative view of early life conditions.

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Presented in Session 35: Family and Health Over the Life Course