The Long-Term Impact of Childhood Disability on Mental Health Trajectories in Mid- to Late-Life.

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We draw from the life course and stress process frameworks to examine how experiencing disability in early life influences mental health in adulthood.


Data come from the Health and Retirement Study Cross-Wave Childhood Health and Family Aggregated Data file (2008-2018, n = 15,289). Childhood disability status is a retrospective self-report of whether respondents were disabled for six months or more because of a health problem before the age of 16 (n = 581). We used age-based growth curve models to construct trajectories of depressive symptoms by childhood disability status.


Respondents who experienced childhood disability exhibit more depressive symptoms at age 50 compared to those who did not experience this stressor. However, there is no difference in the growth of depressive symptoms with age between these groups, suggesting maintained inequality over the late adulthood life course.


Findings suggest that childhood disability has long-term implications for life course mental health.





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West, Jessica S, and Christina Kamis (2022). The Long-Term Impact of Childhood Disability on Mental Health Trajectories in Mid- to Late-Life. Journal of aging and health, 34(6-8). pp. 818–830. 10.1177/08982643211066184 Retrieved from

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Jessica Sayles West

Medical Instructor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences

Jessica is a medical sociologist who specializes in research on hearing loss, aging, and health disparities over the life course. Jessica’s work has described the “spillover” effects of hearing loss on health outcomes for both individuals and those close to them, as well as sociodemographic disparities in the onset of and life expectancy with hearing loss. Her research, which leverages both population-level data and electronic health record data, has appeared in the Journals of Gerontology, Social Science & Medicine, Ear and Hearing, and other leading journals in medical sociology, hearing, and aging research.

Jessica received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in Social Anthropology (dual Sociology/Anthropology concentration) followed by an M.P.H. in Sociomedical Sciences with a certificate in Public Health Research Methods from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She subsequently received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology with a focus in Medical Sociology and Demography at Duke University. She then completed an NIA T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Duke University Aging Center under the mentorship of Matthew E. Dupre, Ph.D. (Population Health Sciences) and Sherri L. Smith, Au.D., Ph.D. (Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences).

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