Allostatic load and exposure histories of disadvantage

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

July 6, 2021


The stress pathway posits that those in disadvantaged circumstances are exposed to a higher degree of stressful experiences over time resulting in an accumulated biological burden which subsequently relates to poorer health. Trajectories of disadvantage, in the form of neighbourhood deprivation and structural social capital, are evaluated in their relation to allostatic load representing the cumulative “wear and tear” of chronic stress. This paper uses data from the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society in a latent class growth analysis. We identify groups of exposure trajectories over time using these classes to predict allostatic load at the final wave. The results show that persistent exposure to higher deprivation is related to worse allostatic load. High structural social capital over time relates to lower allostatic load, in line with a stress buffering effect, though this relationship is not robust to controlling for individual sociodemographic characteristics. By demonstrating a gradient in allostatic load by histories of deprivation, this analysis supports a biological embedding of disadvantage through chronic exposure to stressful environments as an explanation for social health inequalities.

Published in

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Volume: 18






Open Access

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest