The Impact of Relative Poverty on Norwegian Adolescents' Subjective Health: A Causal Analysis with Propensity Score Matching


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Studies have revealed that relative poverty is associated with ill health, but the interpretations of this correlation vary. This article asks whether relative poverty among Norwegian adolescents is causally related to poor subjective health, i.e., self-reported somatic and mental symptoms. Data consist of interview responses from a sample of adolescents (N = 510) and their parents, combined with register data on the family’s economic situation. Relatively poor adolescents had significantly worse subjective health than non-poor adolescents. Relatively poor adolescents also experienced many other social disadvantages, such as parental unemployment and parental ill health. Comparisons between the relatively poor and the non-poor adolescents, using propensity score matching, indicated a negative impact of relative poverty on the subjective health among those adolescents who lived in families with relatively few economic resources. The results suggest that there is a causal component in the association between relative poverty and the symptom burden of disadvantaged adolescents. Relative poverty is only one of many determinants of adolescents’ subjective health, but its role should be acknowledged when policies for promoting adolescent health are designed.




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