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Socioeconomic Status and Health 

Socioeconomic Status and Health
Chapter:
Socioeconomic Status and Health
Author(s):

M. Maria Glymour

, Mauricio Avendano

, and Ichiro Kawachi

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780195377903.003.0002
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date: 30 May 2020

Lower socioeconomic status (SES), whether measured by education, poverty, or other indicators, predicts worse health. This association has been documented for centuries and persists throughout the contemporary world, even though the specific diseases that account for the majority of morbidity and mortality have changed. A leading theory posits that SES is a “fundamental cause” of health, providing flexible resources to improve health regardless of the specific threats to health. Recent findings demonstrate that the health consequences of SES are likely to be contingent on the lifecourse timing of exposure. We review evidence that the SES-health association is causal, in order to evaluate whether improving SES would also be likely to benefit health. We focus on evidence regarding education and income. Although confounding or reverse causation are likely to contribute to some SES-health associations, evidence from natural and planned experiments also indicates that investments in SES can improve health in many circumstances.

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