Socioeconomic Influences on Inequalities of Wellbeing in Later Life: A Study of Australian Baby Boomers

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Hal KENDIG , Australian National University, Australia
Vanessa LOH , University of Sydney & ARC CEPAR, Australia
Kate O'LOUGHLIN , Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia
Promoting health and wellbeing in individuals across the life course has become a priority for many governments and policy makers around the world. There is increasing recognition of the value of subjective measures of wellbeing as a complement to the more traditional, objective measures of health and wealth. In Australia there is a widespread view that the early post WWII birth cohort has been advantaged relative to later cohorts but there has been little attention to the origins of inequalities arising from earlier life experiences within the cohort.

This paper begins to address this gap by examining the influence of earlier life course exposures on subjective wellbeing among a sample of Australian baby boomers aged 60 to 64 years from the 2011-12 Life Histories and Health (LHH) survey (a sub-study of the NSW 45 and Up Study). Inequalities in childhood social position – notably parental social class and education – were found to have small but significant effects on later life wellbeing.  The childhood influences operated mainly through their relationships to adult attainment of socioeconomic position such as highest education, occupational class and household income. Differences in childhood health also impacted on later life wellbeing through associations with adult health and physical capacities. Overall, there was evidence that advantages or disadvantages experienced in both childhood and adulthood had a cumulative effect on wellbeing on entry to later life. These findings underscore the value of examining not only proximal, but also earlier, distal life course determinants of wellbeing and the importance of reducing inequalities in health and wellbeing across all stages of life. Comparisons to English Longitudinal Survey on Ageing will indicate the influence of societal differences in socioeconomic development and public policies on wellbeing outcome.