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Heflin study on material hardship, perceived stress and health in early adulthood published in AE

Sep 16, 2020

Material Hardship, Perceived Stress and Health in Early Adulthood

Ying Huang, Colleen Heflin, Asiya Validova

Annals of Epidemiology, September 2020

Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin


The authors examined the associations between material hardship and health outcomes in early adulthood and the extent to which these associations are mediated by perceived stress.

They used wave I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative survey of young adults aged 18–34 years old (n = 13,313). Multivariate logistic regression and decomposition methods were used to evaluate the associations between types and depth of material hardship (food, bill-paying, and health resource hardship), health outcomes (self-rated health, depression, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts) in early adulthood, and the extent to which these associations were mediated by perceived stress.

The adjusted odds of fair or poor health status, depression, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts were higher among individuals with material hardship than counterparts without. A considerable proportion of the association between material hardship and health outcomes was attributable to perceived stress.

Material hardship is associated with adverse health outcomes in early adulthood, and these relationships are robust after accounting for various sociodemographic characteristics and family background. Perceived stress accounted for a sizable portion of the effects of material hardship on health.

Efforts to promote health equity in young adults should focus on material hardship and associated stressful conditions.

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