Transitions to Adulthood and Health Risk Among US Young Adults

Health risks such as smoking, physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation are important determinants of premature mortality among US adults. Further, these risks are socially patterned. Research has shown that educational attainment, marital status, fertility patterns, and employment status are all associated with adult health behaviors and outcomes. Yet, relatively little is known about how the aforementioned health risks are patterned by combinations of these social statuses, even though they are interdependent. For example, entering the workforce is often a competing alternative to further education, or individuals may delay parenthood until after marriage. This project focuses on how the transition to adulthood, defined as the sequencing and combination of different markers of adulthood, influences the health risks of young adults. The overall objective of this research project is to understand the development of differential health risks of young adults aged 26 to 32 in the US. The aims of the project are to: (1) distinguish unique transition to adulthood profiles of US young adults through examination of the timing, sequence, and grouping of adulthood markers; (2) identify health risk profiles among US young adults through determining how health behaviors and outcomes are patterned across individuals; (3) identify relationships between transition profiles and health risk; and (4) estimate the moderating effects of race/ethnicity, nativity, sex, and class background on the transition-health risk relationships. To accomplish these aims, the project will use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Add Health is uniquely suited for this project because it: (1) is recent, (2) is longitudinal, (3) spans the transition to adulthood, (4) offers detail on health risks including biomarkers, (5) provides geographic information, and (6) offers genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. This project will use the contemporary quantitative methods. The results will provide a more comprehensive description of health risk patterns of US young adults. The project will move forward our understanding of how combinations of individual, family, and social factors influence the health risks of young adults in the US, an especially important topic in the context of today’s widening health disparities and changing health risks.

Principal Investigators: Robert Hummer, Elizabeth Lawrence

Funding Source: NIH NICHD

Grant Number: F32HD085599

Funding Period: 7/1/2016 - 6/30/2018

Primary Research Area: Population Health

Affiliated Research Project:

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