Displacement Due to Armed Conflict and Violence in Childhood and Older Adult Health: The Case of the Middle-Income Country of Colombia

McEniry, Mary, Rafael Samper-Ternent, and Carlos Cano Guitierrez
Working paper no. 2018-03


Large displacement of populations in developing economies due to internal armed conflict and violence is of international concern but there has been relatively little research on the long-term consequences of displacement on older adult health, in particular displacement during childhood. We examine displacement in the middle-income country of Colombia which experienced a large displacement of its population over the last 50-60 years due to internal armed conflict and violence. Using a national representative survey of older adults, SABE-Colombia (2014-2015, n=23,694), we estimate the degree to which displacement during childhood and adulthood relative to those never displaced is associated with health (obesity, chronic conditions, depression, cognition, stress, functionality, frailty, self-reported health), controlling for age, gender, SES, residence, other indicators of early life conditions (infections, nutrition, health, SES, family violence), and risky adult behavior (smoking, little exercise, no prevention, poor nutrition). We find that displacement during childhood is associated with higher risk of chronic conditions and stress; being displaced and having rheumatic fever during childhood increases the risk of heart disease. Displacement in adulthood and early life infections increase the risk of poor adult health but timing of displacement may also provide resilience to the effects of poor early life conditions.