Exploring Social and Behavioral Factors Related to Later-life Functional Disability Status: A Life C

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Date: April 5, 2022
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Location: Virtual event
Category: Seminar

WSU, Institute of Gerontology Reserch Colloquia is pleased present:

Exploring Social and Behavioral Factors Related to Later-life Functional Disability Status: A Life Course Approach
Patricia Morton, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology/Public Health
Adjunct, Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University

Identifying the early origins of adult health has underscored how experiences in the earliest stages of life can have lasting consequences but many studies utilize outcomes that rely on a physician’s diagnosis, which depends on access to healthcare. Focusing on physician-diagnosed diseases also means that research on the childhood origins of adult health has centered on outcomes much earlier in the disablement process. The present study connects early-life exposures to an outcome further downstream in the disablement process that does not require healthcare consumption: self-reported functional disability. Distinct from prior studies on childhood disadvantage and later-life functional status, the present study compared the individual and collective influences of multiple childhood domains on later-life functional disability and tested five potential mediators. Using a sample of over 9,000 adults from the Health and Retirement Study (>50 years), survival models were estimated to predict onset of functional disability from 2006-2016 and statistical tests of mediation were conducted. Respondents exposed to multiple childhood disadvantages as well as low childhood socioeconomic status (SES), chronic diseases, impairments, and risky adolescent behaviors were more likely to develop functional disability. Adult health behaviors and SES mediated some of these effects, but precise mechanisms varied by type of childhood exposure. These findings highlight that the life course processes of later-life functional status initiated early in life depend on the type and amount of disadvantage experienced. Given the enduring effects of childhood disadvantage, [health] policies to promote healthy aging should reduce exposure to childhood disadvantage and, in the aftermath of childhood disadvantage, the associated mechanism(s).

Dr. Morton is an assistant professor of Sociology and Public Health and adjunct in the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University (WSU). Her research focuses on social determinants of health inequality, with a primary interest in understanding how childhood conditions shape health and aging over the life course through multiple life domains such as socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and physiology. Currently, her research is a funded by the National Institute on Aging (R01) for which Dr. Morton serves as a co-investigator. Her work has been named Editor’s Choice in The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences; highlighted by national and international news outlets; and received several awards, including the Distinguished Dissertation Award (Purdue University), the Behavioral and Social Sciences Dissertation Research Award (Gerontological Society of America [GSA]), and the Theoretical Developments in Social Gerontology Award (GSA). Dr. Morton uses her work and ongoing gerontological research to shape her teaching, most recently developing a virtual pen pal program between WSU students and retirement community residents to combat social isolation among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic for which she received a WSU Teaching Award. Dr. Morton received her PhD in Sociology and Gerontology from Purdue University and served as a postdoctoral fellow in Statistics and Sociology at Rice University.

Passcode 625893
Meeting ID: 969 1790 6484

Colloquia presented courtesy of the Mary Thompson Foundation

April 2022