Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Status and Health

This is a tricky area due to various concerns about endogeneity etc, but there are some papers which provide experimental evidence for the relationship between social status and susceptibility to illness. In each of the following participants were exposed to the cold virus and tracked to examine which individuals developed symptoms. The first, Sociability and Susceptibility to the Common Cold (Cohen et al 2003), found that sociability was negatively associated with the probability of developing a cold following infection. The second, Objective and Subjective Socioeconomic Status and Susceptibility to the Common Cold (Cohen et al 2008), found that subjective SES was negatively associated with the development of symptoms. Particularly interesting was the fact that this was independent of objective SES. There was some evidence that the relationship was mediated by sleeping patterns. You still have to wonder exactly what “sociability” and socioeconomic status are measuring, but interesting all the same.


Kevin Denny said...

SES is pretty well understood in general as a concept what is novel here is the subjective element:its where you think you stand relative to other people. It could matter if people who feel they are low down the food chain are more stressed as a result. What came out of those Whitehall studies was the people low in the organization fared worse. But maybe its not just where you are but where you think you are.
Sociability is just,well, how sociable you are! People who are extroverted/agreeable etc are sociable. They use a version of the Big 5 to measure it. No great mystery there either, I think.

Mark McG said...

Yes I agree about the measures themselves, I just reckon it's hard to be sure exactly what you're picking up with these results. Ideally you would randomise social status as well as exposure. For example, is the SES result just due to genetics (I guess probably not seeing as it's a subjective measure here)? Is the sociability result just due to IQ?