Subjective Social Status and Physiological Dysregulation in Young Adulthood: More Evidence for the Social Gradient in Health

Karen Gerken, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A person’s place within the hierarchy of the social stratification system matters a great deal for a variety of outcomes, including their health. While the majority of the evidence for a socioeconomic health gradient uses objective measures of SES (OSS) as an operationalization of material resources, mounting evidence suggests that subjective social status (SSS), through psychosocial processes, may be more important for predicting health outcomes. This paper uses the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to compare the relative strength of OSS markers across the life course and SSS in young adulthood in relation to physical health. Preliminary evidence shows that SSS is more strongly related to these objective health measures, an indication that subjective status “gets under the skin” early in the life course even before disease emerges. Further analysis will continue to explore the mechanisms driving both OSS and SSS relationships with health.

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Presented in Session 110: Social Disparities in Health