A new study from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health reveals a mother’s health significantly influences her daughter’s self-assessed health.
The study recently appeared in the International Journal of Aging & Human Development.
Researchers for the study looked at 1,848 mother-daughter pairs identified through the National Longitudinal Surveys databases. The surveys asked different age groups of women similar questions regarding long-term risk factors, socioeconomic status, and sources of resilience over the span of 36 years.
“This study is the first of its kind,“ said Dr. Tetyana Shippee, University of Minnesota School of Public Health assistant professor and lead author of the study. “No other study has looked at such a large pool of mother-daughter pairs.”
Analysis of the survey responses showed a mother’s health was indeed a predictor of her daughter’s self-rated health over time, and as the daughters reached middle age themselves, their mothers’ health still significantly influenced their self-rated health.
However, the relationship between the health of mothers and daughters became non-significant when controlled for a daughter’s own socioeconomic status, a result that shows that much of the negative health transmission is due to issues with socioeconomic resources.
A mother’s education was the most influential socioeconomic factor and had a direct effect on a daughter’s self-rated health over time, even when controlling for the daughter’s own education. This finding demonstrates the value of education across generations, and not just for a daughter’s own achievements, but directly for her health.
There were also persistent racial differences in self-rated health over time and across generations. African-American daughters reported lower self-rated health and experienced more decline in their health as compared with white daughters. This relationship persisted even when controlling for socioeconomic status.
Dr. Shippee’s findings show that inequalities are not only persistent in our society, but that they often amplify across generations. The findings give further support that health disparities do not just start and end within one lifetime, and they could point to new public health opportunities for disparity reduction.