|Child marriage and risky health behaviors: an analysis of tobacco use among early adult and early middle-aged women in India
|Biplab K. Datta, Ashwini Tiwari and Ishtiaque Fazlul
|BMC Women's Health, Volume 22, issue 206; DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-022-01781-3
Though the harmful impacts of child marriage have been evaluated across several domains, evidence on the relationship between child marriage and health behaviors over the life course is limited. In this paper, we examined whether getting married as a child is associated with one of the most common risky health behaviors, tobacco use, in adulthood.
Using nationally representative data from India, we compared the odds in favor of tobacco use among early adult (age 22–34) and early middle-aged (age 35–44) women who were married before age 18 with that of those who were married as youths (age 18–21). We estimated univariate and multivariable logistic regressions to obtain odds ratios in favor of any tobacco-use and relative risk ratios in favor of mutually exclusive types of tobacco use (smoking-only, smokeless-only, and dual-use). We also explored the intensive margin of the relationship by assessing if the odds of tobacco use in adulthood were affected by how early (13 or less, 14–15, or 16–17) a child bride was married.
We find that the adjusted odds of tobacco use for those who were married as a child were 1.3 and 1.2 times that of those who were married as a youth among early adult and early middle-aged women, respectively. The younger was the child bride when married, the higher were the odds of tobacco use as an adult. The relative risks of different types of tobacco use were also higher for child brides than their peers.
These results are the first evidence of the association between child marriage and a major risky health behavior, tobacco use, over the life course. These findings will inform policies to strengthen child marriage prevention efforts and targeted tobacco control initiatives in the low-and-middle income countries.