A new psychological perspective on the relation between socioeconomic status and health

S. P. Elbert, A. Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Background: Socioeconomic inequalities are related to health and illness outcomes, partly because individuals with a lower socioeconomic status (SES) behave less healthy. Evidently, this group does not use all modern knowledge available in society about the relation between behaviour and health. A new psychological perspective is developed to explain these mechanisms: Lower-SES individuals may not adopt health messages associated with higher-SES sources, due to the painful upward social comparisons these involve. Moreover, this leads to a lower-SES culture that keeps itself in existence, with its own perceptions, social influences and behavioural patterns. Methods: We tested the assumption that lower-SES individuals do not have all knowledge about health. Parents with a low/medium (n =126) or high level of education (n =129) indicated their agreement with statements about the relation between overweight in their children and health. Findings: Compared to higher-educated parents, low/medium-educated parents agreed less with statements about overweight being associated with a greater risk of developing diabetes (p = .01, η² =.03), cardiovascular diseases (p < .05, η² =.02) and cancer (p < .01, η² =.04, controlled for parent’s BMI). Additional experimental data showed that lower-SES individuals perceived health information as more new, F(1,130) = 7.29, p < .01, η² =.06.Discussion: Lower-educated people seem not to have the available knowledge regarding behaviour-health relations. Our psychological perspective gives new insight into the SES-health relationships, and why differences maintain to exist. Further assumptions need to be tested to better understand the lower-SES group, often underrepresented in health promotion research and interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 26-Jan-2018
EventSeventh annual conference of the Association for Researchers in Psychology & Health (ARPH) -
Duration: 25-Jan-201826-Jan-2018


ConferenceSeventh annual conference of the Association for Researchers in Psychology & Health (ARPH)

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