Childhood Socioeconomic Position, Adult Educational Attainment and Health Behaviors: The Role of Psychological Capital and Health Literacy

Karlijn Massar*, Natalie Kopplin, Karen Schelleman-Offermans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Socioeconomic circumstances during childhood and adulthood are known to negatively affect health promoting behaviors. On the other hand, psychological capital (PsyCap) and health literacy are positively associated with these lifestyle behaviors. We, therefore, reasoned that PsyCap and health literacy might "buffer" the negative influences of socioeconomic circumstances on health-promoting behaviors. Method: We measured subjective childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) and adult educational attainment (as a proxy for adult socioeconomic circumstances), health literacy, PsyCap, and health behaviors (fruits and vegetables consumption, exercise, and sweets and cookies consumption) in a sample of N = 150 individuals (mean age 34.98 years, 66.7% female). Results: Bootstrapped mediation analyses including PsyCap and health literacy as parallel mediators revealed that: (I) The relationship between childhood SEP and (a) fruits and vegetables consumption and (b) exercise was mediated by PsyCap, and (II) the relationship between adult educational attainment and (a) fruits and vegetables consumption and (b) exercise was mediated by PsyCap and health literacy. We found no significant effects for consumption of sweets and cookies. Conclusion: These results suggest that larger studies are warranted that confirm the potential of PsyCap and health literacy in mitigating the negative effects of lower SEP on health behaviors and health outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9399
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021


  • socioeconomic position
  • psychological capital
  • health literacy
  • health behaviors
  • mediation analysis
  • educational attainment
  • childhood socioeconomic position
  • RISK

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