Health, stress, and well-being in Swiss adult survivors of child welfare practices and child labor: Investigating the mediating role of socio-economic factors

Myriam V. Thoma, Florence Bernays, Carla M. Eising, Viviane Pfluger, Shauna L. Rohner - Child Abuse & Neglect



With widespread deprivation in the education of minors affected by child welfare practices (CWP) in the last century, affected individuals often continued a life dominated by socio-economic disadvantage. According to life course theories, the impact of socio-economic disadvantage can accumulate across the life span, leading to worse health in later life. However, the scientific examination of health correlates of CWP in later life and the mediating role of socio-economic factors (SEF) has previously been neglected.


This study examined whether Swiss survivors of CWP, including former Verdingkinder, have poorer health in later life compared to controls, and whether this association is mediated by socio-economic factors: education, income, satisfaction with financial situation, socio-economic status.

Participants and setting

Two face-to-face interviews were conducted with N = 257 participants (risk group, RG, n = 132, MAGE = 70.83 years, 58 % male; control group, CG, n = 125, MAGE = 70.6 years, 49 % male).


A broad set of physical health outcomes, stress, well-being, and SEF were assessed with psychometric instruments.


The RG reported more physical illnesses, vascular risk factors, health symptoms, stress, and lower well-being, compared to the CG. Mediation analyses revealed that SEF were relevant mediators for the significant health and stress disparities between groups.


Results suggest that SEF can play a crucial role in mitigating the negative effects and health impairments in individuals formerly affected by CWP. Public health services and policies that target these SEF could improve current welfare practices by providing opportunities to overcome early-life disadvantage and facilitating healthier life trajectories.