Our goal was to examine the association between poverty, in the first and fourth years of life and cumulatively in the first and fourth years of life, and the health of children in the fourth year of life in the UK Millennium Cohort Study and in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD).
Data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study of 14 556 children and from the QLSCD of 1950 children were analyzed. Comparable measures of poverty were households in receipt of the safety-net benefit: income support in the United Kingdom and social welfare in Quebec. Three parent-reported health indicators were examined: asthma attack, long-standing illness, and limiting long-standing illness by the fourth year of life. Associations were explored with logistic regression modeling controlling for child characteristics and maternal education.
Poverty only in the first year of life significantly increased the risk of asthma attacks and limiting long-standing illness in the fourth year of life among UK children; trends were in the expected direction in the QLSCD but did not reach statistical significance. Poverty in the fourth year of life only significantly increased the risk of all 3 outcomes for UK children but not for Quebec children. For children experiencing poverty in both the first and fourth years of life, the risks for all 3 outcomes also increased in the United Kingdom, whereas only the risk of limiting long-standing illness increased in Quebec. Adjustment for confounding had little effect on the increased risks associated with poverty.
These findings suggest that experience of poverty at various times in early childhood increases the risk of asthma attacks and chronic illness in the fourth year of life; however, they also indicate that poverty at different stages of the early childhood life course may have different effects on chronic illness in different country settings.