Skip to content

Journal Article

A social rank explanation of how money influences health

Authors

Publication date

2015

Summary

Objective: Financial resources are a potent determinant of health, yet it remains unclear why this is the case. We aimed to identify whether the frequently observed association between absolute levels of monetary resources and health may occur because money acts an indirect proxy for a person’s social rank. Method: To address this question we examined over 230,000 observations on 40,400 adults drawn from two representative national panel studies; the British Household Panel Survey and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. We identified each person’s absolute income/wealth and their objective ranked position of income/wealth within a social reference-group. Absolute and rank income/wealth variables were then used to predict a series of self-reported and objectively recorded health outcomes in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Results: As anticipated, those with higher levels of absolute income/wealth were found to have better health than others, after adjustment for age, gender, education, marital status, and labor force status. When evaluated simultaneously the ranked position of income/wealth but not absolute income/wealth predicted all health outcomes examined including: objective measures of allostatic load and obesity, the presence of long-standing illness, and ratings of health, physical functioning, role limitations, and pain. The health benefits of high rank were consistent in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses and did not depend on the reference-group used to rank participants. Conclusions: This is the first study to demonstrate that social position rather than material conditions may explain the impact of money on human health.

Published in

Health Psychology

Volume and page numbers

34 , 222 -230

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/hea0000098

ISSN

16

Subjects

Social Groups, Savings And Assets, Health, Finance, and Social Stratification

Links

Health Psychology - http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/hea/

Notes

Open Access; This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited; ©2014 The Author(s).

#524558


Research home

Research home

News

Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author

Podcasts

Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society

Projects

Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs

Events

Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report

Themes

Key research themes and areas of interest