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.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
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