Intercohort trends in the relationship between education and health: Examining physical impairment and depressive symptomatology

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Objective: This study examines whether educational differentials in functional and mental health are greater in more recent cohorts in the United States. Method: This study utilizes latent growth-curve modeling to examine intercohort trends in physical impairment and depressive symptomatology for three educational subgroups, using panel data (1986-1994) based on a national probability sample of 3,617 U.S. adults. Results: Among those with less than a high school diploma, the 8-year newer cohort demonstrated higher physical impairment at the same age, implying an unfavorable trend. College graduates and high school graduates enjoyed favorable trends in mental health, and the trends were different across age groups within certain educational groups. Discussion: This study provides evidence that the education-based disparity in health is increasing, but there are variations in the trend depending on health outcomes. These results argue for the necessity of examining trends in education and health using diverse health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-693
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Sep 1
Externally publishedYes



  • Cohort patterns
  • Education
  • Functional health
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Ageing
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)

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