Social Status and Risky Health Behaviors: Results From the Health and Retirement Study

TitleSocial Status and Risky Health Behaviors: Results From the Health and Retirement Study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsWray, LA, Alwin, DF, McCammon, R
JournalJournals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences
IssueSpecial Issue 2
Call Numberpubs_2005_WrayAlwin.pdf
KeywordsDemographics, Health Conditions and Status

Objectives. We focus on a hypothesized mechanism that may underlie the well-documented link between social status and health behavioral health risks. Methods. We use longitudinal data from representative samples of 6,106 middle-aged and 3,636 older adults from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the relationships between social status including early life social status (e.g., parental schooling), ascribed social status (e.g., sex, race ethnicity), and achieved social status (e.g., schooling, economic resources) and behavioral health risks (e.g., weight, smoking, drinking, physical activity) to (1) assess how early life and ascribed social statuses are linked to behavioral health risks, (2) investigate the role of achieved factors in behavioral health risks, (3) test whether achieved status explains the contributions of early life and ascribed status, and (4) examine whether the social status and health risk relationships differ at midlife and older age. Results. We find that early life, achieved, and ascribed social statuses strongly predict behavioral health risks, although the effects are stronger in midlife than they are in older age. Discussion. Ascribed social statuses (and interactions of sex and race ethnicity), which are important predictors of behavioral health risks even net of early life and achieved social status, should be explored in future research.

Endnote Keywords

Social Stratification/Health Behaviors

Endnote ID


Citation Key7042