Objective: We examined the associations between material hardship and health outcomes in early adulthood, and the extent to which these associations are mediated by perceived stress .
Methods: We used Wave I & IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative survey of young adults aged 18 to 34 years old (N=13,313). Multivariate logistic regression and decomposition methods were used to evaluate the associations between types and depth of material hardship (food, bill-paying and health resource hardship) and health outcomes (self-rated health, depression, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts) in early adulthood, and the extent to which these associations were mediated by perceived stress .
Results: The adjusted odds of fair or poor health status, depression, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts were higher among individuals with material hardship than counterparts without . A considerable proportion of the association between material hardship and health outcomes was attributable to perceived stress .
Conclusions: Material hardship is associated with adverse health outcomes in early adulthood, and these relationships are robust after accounting for various sociodemographic characteristics and family background . Perceived stress accounted for a sizable portion of the effects of material hardship on health . Public Health Implications: Efforts to promote health equity in young adults should focus on material hardship and associated stressful conditions.