16 July 2016
The aims of this study were to examine indicators of socioeconomic deprivation among secondary school students and to determine associations between household poverty, neighbourhood deprivation and health indicators.
Data were from a nationally representative sample of 8500 secondary school students in New Zealand who participated in a health survey in 2012. Latent class analyses were used to group students by household poverty based on nine indicators of household socioeconomic deprivation: no car; no phone; no computer; their parent/s worry about not having enough money for food; more than two people sharing a bedroom; no holidays with their families; moving home more than twice that year; garages or living rooms used as bedrooms; and, no parent at home with employment. Multilevel generalized linear models were used to estimate the cross-level interaction between household poverty and neighbourhood deprivation with depressive symptoms, cigarette smoking and overweight/ obesity.
Three groups of students were identified: 80 % of students had low levels of household poverty across all indicators; 15 % experienced moderate poverty; and 5 % experienced high levels of poverty. Depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking were 2–3 times higher in the poverty groups compared to student’s not experiencing poverty. There were also higher rates of overweight/ obesity among students in the poverty groups compared to students not experiencing poverty, but once covariates were accounted for the relationship was less clear. Of note, students experiencing poverty and living in affluent neighbourhoods reported higher levels of depressive symptoms and higher rates of cigarette smoking than students experiencing poverty and living in low socioeconomic neighbourhoods. This cross-level interaction was not seen for overweight/ obesity.
Measures of household socioeconomic deprivation among young people should not be combined with neighbourhood measures of socioeconomic deprivation due to non-linear relationships with health and behaviour indicators. Policies are needed that address household poverty alongside efforts to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in neighbourhoods.