Unequal societies tend to have larger health inequalities. Conditions in low and middle income countries during the 1930s-1960s led to higher survivorship in early life due to public health interventions including medical technology but this may not have translated into parallel improvements in standard of living during childhood or throughout the life course. As a result, there may be sharper SES health disparities among these survivors of poor early life conditions. This paper examines this conjecture by matching the relative index of inequality (RII) based on education and household income with the prevalence of chronic conditions (heart disease and diabetes), functional difficulties, obesity, and poor self-reported health among older adults born during the first portion of this period using a recently compiled cross national data set of older adults from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, the US, England, and the Netherlands. The results in general show a positive association between the RII and the prevalence of adult health outcomes (chronic conditions, obesity, and functionality). In particular, the results for diabetes suggest the possibility of a steeper association between SES inequality in education and income and the prevalence of health outcomes among older adults in cohorts hypothesized to have a larger pool of survivors of poor early life conditions. More investigation is warranted although the conjecture regarding the long term consequences of early life conditions and later SES disparities in health among these older adults may not be totally off the mark.
Country of focus: International.