Relative to Whom? Social Status and Mental Health

Amelia Karraker, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Mental health outcomes such as loneliness and stress are often cited as mechanisms for how social status “gets under the skin” to affect health, but few studies have explicitly examined the relationship between mental health and social status. In addition, it is unknown whether the effects of social status on mental health depend on the social hierarchy examined. I use data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (N=3,005) to examine the association between subjective social status relative to peers and relative to American families and mental health outcomes. Social proximity of hierarchy matters. For stress, subjective social status relative to peers is more strongly associated with mental health outcomes than subjective social status relative to American families. Subjective social status relative to peers remains significant even after controlling for social status relative to Americans, suggesting the importance of inequality experienced in daily life for health.

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Presented in Poster Session 4