Lifetime cumulative adversity and physical health deterioration in old age: Evidence from a fourteen-year longitudinal study

Michal Levinsky*, Miriam Schiff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Although several studies have demonstrated the associations between lifetime cumulative adversity and late-life physical health, many of them were conducted at a single time point and examined events that occurred in childhood only. Less is known about the effect of lifelong adversity on the aging process over time. This study aimed to investigate the impact of cumulative adversity on the accelerated deterioration in health over time - mobility limitation and self-rated state of health in old age. Methods: This study provides a 14-year, 6-time-point follow-up on a representative sample of Europeans using the SHARE Project - longitudinal survey panel. The sample included a total of 7195 respondents aged 65 and older from nine countries in Europe. The outcome measurements were the number of mobility limitations and self-rated health – trajectories along 6 measurements. The independent variable was Lifetime Cumulative Adversity, and the analyses included also control variables – age, gender, socioeconomic status, depression, and country. Results: Time-based Latent Growth Curve Modeling has demonstrated that the effects of Lifetime Cumulative Adversity were significant on both health measures, by means of the intercepts and the slopes: Greater experience of adversities correlated with a higher physical health impairment at baseline and a higher decline along time. The effects of self-rated health were weaker than the effects of mobility limitations. Conclusions: Given that the populations of numerous countries are rapidly aging, understanding the risk factors associated with health deterioration is important, especially for policymakers and medical health care experts, to raise awareness of the relationship between lifelong adversity and health decline and to build preventive interventions to deal with these consequences.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number114407
Pages (from-to)114407
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Aging
  • Cumulative adversity
  • Mobility limitations
  • Self-rated health


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