"Shift-and-Persist" Strategies: Why Low Socioeconomic Status Isn't Always Bad for Health

Edith Chen*, Gregory E. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations

Abstract

Some individuals, despite facing recurrent, severe adversities in life such as low socioeconomic status (SES), are nonetheless able to maintain good physical health. This article explores why these individuals deviate from the expected association of low SES and poor health and outlines a "shift-and-persist" model to explain the psychobiological mechanisms involved. This model proposes that, in the midst of adversity, some children find role models who teach them to trust others, better regulate their emotions, and focus on their futures. Over a lifetime, these low-SES children develop an approach to life that prioritizes shifting oneself (accepting stress for what it is and adapting the self through reappraisals) in combination with persisting (enduring life with strength by holding on to meaning and optimism). This combination of shift-and-persist strategies mitigates sympathetic-nervous-system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical responses to the barrage of stressors that low-SES individuals confront. This tendency vectors individuals off the trajectory to chronic disease by forestalling pathogenic sequelae of stress reactivity, like insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and systemic inflammation. We outline evidence for the model and argue that efforts to identify resilience-promoting processes are important in this economic climate, given limited resources for improving the financial circumstances of disadvantaged individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-158
Number of pages24
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Keywords

  • cardiovascular
  • health
  • resilience
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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