Subjective Social Status and Allostatic Load in Mothers 1 Year After Birth

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Health Psychology


Objective: Subjective social status (SSS) refers to an individual’s perception of relative social rank. We tested associations between SSS and allostatic load, a multisystem index of physiological dysregulation, in a sample of women 1 year after the birth of a child.

Method: Participants (n = 1,168) in the Community Child Health Network study were recruited in five sites across the United States shortly after the birth of a child. SSS was assessed at 6 months after birth using the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status. Participants also reported household income and years of education completed. Biomarkers were assessed and allostatic load was calculated by assigning one point for each of 10 biomarkers above clinical cutoffs at a subsequent visit approximately 6 months later. Multiple linear regression analyses tested associations of SSS with allostatic load, adjusting for socioeconomic (SES) indicators of household income, years of education, and other covariates (race/ethnicity, relationship status, maternal age, and study site). We also tested interactions between each of the objective SES measures and SSS.

Results: Higher SSS predicted lower subsequent allostatic load independent of household income, education, and other covariates. Associations between SSS and allostatic load were strongest at higher levels of income and education.

Conclusions: Study findings demonstrate associations between perceptions of relative social standing and wear-and-tear on multiple physiological systems above and beyond indicators of objective SES, suggesting that psychosocial aspects of lower status may contribute to the gradient between social status and health.


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