The death of a parent during childhood is a major traumatic event. While there is a good understanding of the early-life effects of parental loss, the evidence regarding its impact on adult mortality is still scarce. Accordingly, the aim of this article is to study the long-term consequences of parental loss on mortality with a particular focus on differences by socioeconomic status (SES) of the family. We use data from 1880, 1890, 1900, and 1910 Swedish censuses that have been linked to the Swedish Death Index, which contain records for the deaths occurred in Sweden between 1860 and 2016. We run a series of OLS regressions to estimate the mean age at death of orphans adjusting for a set of parental and household characteristics. In addition, we account for children’s own socioeconomic position and marital status in adulthood. The findings suggest that parental death in childhood has long-lasting detrimental consequences later in life even though it decreases substantially as individuals get older. We explain the decreasing magnitude of the association with age as likely to be due to an increased selection with the more resilient individuals surviving to older ages. The presence of stepparents is associated with a survival advantage, but we do not find support for an interaction effect between parental death and family SES. Accordingly, the detrimental consequences of parental death are equally observed among all social classes. Including adulthood characteristics slightly attenuates the relationship between parental death in childhood and adulthood mortality, but the results remain significant.
- Folkhälsovetenskap, global hälsa, socialmedicin och epidemiologi