Recent research shows that parents’ survival is associated with their adult children’s education, net of parents’ own socioeconomic position. Why children’s education is linked to their parents’ longevity is, however, an unanswered question.
Utilising a multi-generation register that connects parents to children in the Swedish population, the first part of this paper examines the net associations of children’s various socioeconomic resources (education, occupation, and income) and parents’ mortality. In subsequent analyses of the role of children’s education, five causes of death are distinguished (circulatory disease mortality, overall cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer). The second part of the analysis focuses on the geographic distance between children and parents and how distance interacts with the association between children’s education and parents’ survival.
The results show net associations between all included indicators of children’s socioeconomic position and parents’ mortality risk, with the clearest association for education. Children’s education is significantly associated with all examined causes of deaths except prostate cancer. Breast cancer mortality is negatively related to offspring’s education but not the mothers’ own education. Lastly, distance to parents does not interact with the association between children’s education and parents’ mortality.
To conclude, children’s education seems to be a key factor in comparison to other dimensions of socioeconomic position in the offspring generation. This suggests that explanations that are linked to, e.g., behavioural norms or knowledge and support with health care contacts, are more plausible than, e.g., access to material resources. However, distance does not interact with this association, which may point towards non-causal explanations, i.e., children’s schooling captures unmeasured parental characteristics or circumstances. Alternatively, geographic factors do not prevent parents from benefitting from their adult children’s resources.
Health inequality, mortality, socioeconomic factors, child-parent relationship, geographical distance