Foster youth have high rates of health problems in childhood. Little work has been done to determine whether they are similarly vulnerable to increased health problems once they transition to adulthood. We sought to prospectively evaluate the risk of cardiovascular risk factors and other chronic conditions among young adults formerly in foster care (FC) and young adults from economically insecure (EI) and economically secure (ES) backgrounds in the general population.
We used data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (FC group; N = 596) and an age-matched sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (EI and ES groups; N = 456 and 1461, respectively). After controlling for covariates, we performed multivariate regressions to evaluate health outcomes and care access by group at 2 time points (baseline at late adolescence, follow-up at 25–26 years).
Data revealed a consistent pattern of graduated increase in odds of most health outcomes, progressing from ES to EI to FC groups. Health care access indicators were more variable; the FC group was most likely to report having Medicaid or no insurance but was least likely to report not getting needed care in the past year.
Former foster youth appear to have a higher risk of multiple chronic health conditions, beyond that which is associated with economic insecurity. Findings may be relevant to policymakers and practitioners considering the implementation of extended insurance and foster care programs and interventions to reduce health disparities in young adulthood.