Socioeconomic status and health: Mediating and moderating factors

Edith Chen*, Gregory E. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Health disparities (differences in health by socioeconomic groups) are a pressing issue in our society. This article provides an overview of a multilevel approach that seeks to understand the mechanisms underlying health disparities by considering factors at the individual, family, and neighborhood levels. In addition, we describe an approach to connecting these factors to various levels of biological processes (systemic inflammation, cellular processes, and genomic pathways) that drive disease pathophysiology. In the second half of the article, we address the question of why some low-socioeconomic-status (low-SES) individuals manage to maintain good physical health. We identify naturally occurring psychosocial factors that help buffer these individuals from adverse physiological responses and pathogenic processes leading to chronic disease. What is protective for low-SES individuals is not the same as what is protective for high-SES individuals, and this needs to be taken into account in interventions aimed at reducing health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-749
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • health
  • health disparities
  • psychobiology
  • psychosocial
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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