BACKGROUND: People with higher socioeconomic status generally enjoy better cardiovascular health across the life course than those with lower status. However, recent studies of upward mobility, where a child goes on to achieve higher socioeconomic status than his or her parents, suggest that it entails a tradeoff between better psychological well-being and worse cardiometabolic health. In this study, we consider further evidence of this tradeoff in 2 multidecade studies, asking how upward income mobility relates to subsequent perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and metabolic syndrome. We ask parallel questions about downward mobility. Finally, given shifting patterns of mobility in recent generations, we also consider whether mobility’s association with health outcomes differs for individuals born in the middle and later parts of the 20th century. METHODS AND RESULTS: We analyzed prospective data from Add Health (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health; N=7542) and MIDUS (Midlife in the United States Study; N=1877). In both studies, evidence of the tradeoff was observed. Upward mobility presaged lower perceived stress and fewer depressive symptoms, in combination with higher metabolic syndrome rates. In contrast, downward mobility presaged worse outcomes on all health indicators. The magnitude of the mobility–health associations was similar across cohorts. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence that upward income mobility is associated with a tradeoff between well-being and cardiometabolic health. The similarity of the findings across cohorts suggests that this tradeoff is a generalized consequence of ascending the socioeconomic hierarchy, at least for Americans born in the middle and later parts of the 20th century.
- Metabolic syndrome
- Socioeconomic position
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine