The intergenerational transmission of mental and physical health in the United Kingdom

Tim Halliday, Health, Publications

Abstract: As health is increasingly recognized as a key component of human welfare, a new line of research on intergenerational mobility has emerged that focuses on broad measures of health. We extend this research to consider two key components of health: physical health and mental health. We use rich survey data from the United Kingdom linking the health of adult children at around age 30 to their parents. We estimate that the rank–rank slope in health is 0.17 and the intergenerational health association is 0.19 suggesting relatively rapid mobility compared to other outcomes such as income. We find that while both mental and physical health have a similar degree of intergenerational persistence, parents’ mental health is much more strongly associated with broad measures of adult children’s health than parents’ physical health. We also show that the primacy of parent mental health over physical health on children’s health appears to emerge during early adolescence. Finally, we construct a comprehensive measure of welfare by combining income and health and estimate a rank–rank association of 0.27. This is considerably lower than the comparable estimate of 0.43 from the US suggesting that there is greater mobility in welfare in the UK than in the US.

Bencsik, Panka, Timothy J. Halliday, and Bhaskar Mazumder. “The intergenerational transmission of mental and physical health in the United Kingdom.” Journal of Health Economics (2023): 102805.