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Social status and biological dysregulation: The “status syndrome” and allostatic load


  • Seeman, Melvin
  • Stein Merkin, Sharon
  • Karlamangla, Arun
  • Koretz, Brandon
  • Seeman, Teresa


Data from a national sample of 1255 adults who were part of the MIDUS (Mid-life in the U.S.) follow-up study and agreed to participate in a clinic-based in-depth assessment of their health status were used to test the hypothesis that, quite part from income or educational status, perceptions of lower achieved rank relative to others and of relative inequality in key life domains would be associated with greater evidence of biological health risks (i.e., higher allostatic load). Results indicate that over a variety of status indices (including, for example, the person's sense of control, placement in the community rank hierarchy, perception of inequality in the workplace) a syndrome of perceived relative deprivation is associated with higher levels of biological dysregulation. The evidence is interpreted in light of the well-established associations between lower socio-economic status and various clinically identified health morbidities. The present evidence serves, in effect, both as a part of the explanation of how socio-economic disparities produce downstream morbidity, and as an early warning system regarding the ultimate health effects of currently increasing status inequalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Seeman, Melvin & Stein Merkin, Sharon & Karlamangla, Arun & Koretz, Brandon & Seeman, Teresa, 2014. "Social status and biological dysregulation: The “status syndrome” and allostatic load," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 143-151.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:118:y:2014:i:c:p:143-151
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Seeman, Teresa E. & Crimmins, Eileen & Huang, Mei-Hua & Singer, Burton & Bucur, Alexander & Gruenewald, Tara & Berkman, Lisa F. & Reuben, David B., 2004. "Cumulative biological risk and socio-economic differences in mortality: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(10), pages 1985-1997, May.
    2. Teresa E. Seeman & Dana M. Miller-Martinez & Sharon Stein Merkin & Margie E. Lachman & Patricia A. Tun & Arun S. Karlamangla, 2011. "Histories of Social Engagement and Adult Cognition: Midlife in the U.S. Study," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 66(suppl_1), pages 141-152.
    3. Gruenewald, Tara L. & Karlamangla, Arun S. & Hu, Perry & Stein-Merkin, Sharon & Crandall, Carolyn & Koretz, Brandon & Seeman, Teresa E., 2012. "History of socioeconomic disadvantage and allostatic load in later life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 75-83.
    4. Seeman, Teresa & Glei, Dana & Goldman, Noreen & Weinstein, Maxine & Singer, Burt & Lin, Yu-Hsuan, 2004. "Social relationships and allostatic load in Taiwanese elderly and near elderly," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(11), pages 2245-2257, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Johnson, Sarah C. & Cavallaro, Francesca L. & Leon, David A., 2017. "A systematic review of allostatic load in relation to socioeconomic position: Poor fidelity and major inconsistencies in biomarkers employed," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 192(C), pages 66-73.
    2. Kwok, Man Ki & Subramanian, S.V. & Leung, Gabriel M. & Schooling, C. Mary, 2015. "Household income and adolescent blood pressure in a Chinese birth cohort: “Children of 1997”," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 88-95.
    3. Präg, Patrick & Mills, Melinda C. & Wittek, Rafael, 2016. "Subjective socioeconomic status and health in cross-national comparison," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 84-92.
    4. Colen, Cynthia G. & Ramey, David M. & Cooksey, Elizabeth C. & Williams, David R., 2018. "Racial disparities in health among nonpoor African Americans and Hispanics: The role of acute and chronic discrimination," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 199(C), pages 167-180.


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