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Using latent class analysis to explore complex associations between socioeconomic status and adolescent health and wellbeing

Lowthian, Emily, Page, Nicholas ORCID:, Melendez-Torres, G.J., Murphy, Simon ORCID:, Hewitt, Gillian ORCID: and Moore, Graham ORCID: 2021. Using latent class analysis to explore complex associations between socioeconomic status and adolescent health and wellbeing. Journal of Adolescent Health 69 (5) , pp. 774-781. 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.06.013

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Purpose Research demonstrates a strong socioeconomic gradient in health and well-being. However, many studies rely on unidimensional measures of socioeconomic status (SES) (e.g. educational qualifications, household income), and there is often a more limited consideration of how facets of SES combine to impact well-being. This paper develops a multidimensional measure of SES, drawing on family and school-level factors, to provide more nuanced understandings of socioeconomic patterns in adolescent substance use and mental well-being. Methods Data from the Student Health and Wellbeing Survey from Wales, UK was employed. The sample compromised 22,372 students and we used latent class analysis to identify distinct groups using three measures of SES. These classes were then used to estimate mental well-being, internalizing symptoms, and substance use. Results The five-class solution offered the best fit. Findings indicated distinct classes of families as follows: “nonworking,” “deprived working families,” “affluent families in deprived schools,” “lower affluence,” and “higher affluence.” There was a clear relationship among the classes and mental well-being, internalizing symptoms, smoking, and cannabis use; alcohol was the exception to this. Conclusions The identification of these classes led to a fuller understanding of the health and well-being effects of SES, showing clearer patterning in health behaviors that often is not captured in research. The implications for adolescent health and well-being are discussed, including considerations for future research.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1054-139X
Funders: MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 June 2021
Date of Acceptance: 14 June 2021
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2023 18:16

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