Scarred for Life? Early-Life Experience of the Post-Reunification Economic Crisis in East Germany and Physical and Mental Health Outcomes in Early Adulthood
Keywords:Economic crisis, Life course approach, Family stress, SF-12, Health, Germany
Existing research suggests adverse short-term health effects of economic crises during early life, yet, the long-term health effects for children and adolescents exposed to economic crises are still understudied. We investigated the early-adult health implications of experiencing the post-reunification economic crisis in East Germany in the early 1990s during infancy, childhood and adolescence. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and its linkage with German pension records (SOEP-RV), we applied entropy balancing and conditional quantile regression to assess the relationship between the experience of the economic crisis during early life (ages 0-17) and physical and mental health effects (SF-12 summary scores) in N = 2,337 young adults (aged 17-30) from East and West Germany. Our results indicate mainly no significant physical health effects, yet, significant adverse mental health effects for respondents exposed to the economic crisis in East Germany, especially in young women of average and better mental health. Parental unemployment was an additional risk factor for young women’s mental health. Thus, we suggest women who experienced economic crises during early life are at increased risk of adverse mental health effects already early in their adulthood. Support for families in times of economic crisis and early prevention for infants, children and adolescents exposed to economic adversities is warranted.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Lara Bister, Jeroen Spijker, Fanny Janssen, Tobias Vogt
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