NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Childhood Socioeconomic Factors Affect Men's Longevity

April 21, 2004

Men who grew up in rural settings in a home where the biological father was present are more likely to live longer than men who don't -- according to a recent study in Demography.

Sociologists Mark D. Hayward of Penn State and Bridget K. Gorman of Rice University analyzed survey data from 5,020 men, ranging from age 45 to 69 (between the years 1966 and 1990). The data, which was part of Ohio State University's National Survey of Older Men, revealed:

  • Men who lived in urban areas at the age of 15 were 21 percent more likely to die at all ages during the study period then men who lived in rural areas at age 15.
  • Native-born men were 24 percent more likely to die at all ages than those who were sons of immigrant parents.
  • Men who lived with a biological father and stepmother lived healthier lives than those who lived with a biological mother and stepfather; however, men who grew up with both biological parents fared the best out of the groups.

Researchers also discovered that the mortality rate for men was highest among those who grew up in big city suburbs.

Sociologists have long credited the shorter life span in men who lived in urban areas with the belief that they are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases and polluted environments. However, the new research shows that may not be the case. Instead, the lifestyle of rural residents in the form of more physical activity may play a larger part.

Source: Richard Morin, "Prescription for a Longer Life," Washington Post, April 18, 2004; and Hayward, Mark D. Gorman and Bridget K., "The Long Arm of Childhood: The Influence of Early-Life Social Conditions on Men's Mortality," Demography, Volume 41, No. 1, February 2004.

For Demography study abstract (subscription required for full study)


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