Deprivation likely plays some role in health inequalities. But it is not as important as the life circumstances and opportunities that result from one's socioeconomic position, a new study reports.
Access to resources and opportunity are more important than relative status, researchers found in the latest 2013 study. Also check out another study that looks at socioeconomic status and health, localized to California. It may interest parents, "Socioeconomic Status and the Increased Prevalence of Autism in California," Marissa D. King and Peter S. Bearman (April 2011).
That study suggested that neighborhoods interact in dynamic ways with those living there in different ways at various times to shape health outcomes. The scientists treated neighborhoods as dynamic to understand in more detail the changing socioeconomic 'gradient' of autism and the increase in its prevalence. Now, in 2013, a new study on healthy trends focuses on whether winning a valued award or prize of some type extends your lifespan.
Research has long linked high socioeconomic status with better health and lower mortality. But does this association have more to do with access to resources or the glow of high social status relative to others? In the latest 2013 study, scientists found out that access to resources are more important than fame when it comes to health and potentially, longevity. The question is, which resources? The answer may be general opportunity.
The famous, award winners, and celebrities studied compared to the publicly unknown
Investigators studied Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Emmy Award winners, and former Presidents, comparing each to nominated losers. The result: There were no consistent advantages for winners, suggesting that access to resources and opportunity is more important than relative status. Does winning an Emmy, an election, or entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame mean you will live longer than those you beat?
Here, in Sacramento, programs for the poor like Meals On Wheels, which delivers meals to home-bound seniors, could be affected if $85 billion in federal spending cuts come down due to sequestration. That's one way to look at how higher socioeconomic status is linked with lower mortality.
The stress that the poor and elderly feel during that long, drawn-out time of not knowing, could also affect health and lifespan. Those who are making money and don't have to endure unbearable stress to earn a living, regardless of the economic situation, also face how they perceive winning or not winning social status relative to others. The latest researchers points to a conclusion that access to resources and opportunity is more important than relative status.
Research has long linked high socioeconomic status with better health and lower mortality
What's remained unclear is whether this association has more to do with access to resources (education, wealth, career opportunity, motivation, role models, and chances or the luck of being considered at the right time and right place) or the glow of high social status relative to others? Scholars call the latter "relative deprivation." Do winners take all when it comes to life span? Or is it the luck of the draw, the random shuffling of genes that result in access to resources in the environment?
As for presidential and vice presidential candidates, life circumstances do change for members of this elite club, but winning also brings significant risks: assassination threats and extreme stress from two of the world's most demanding jobs. The 15 men who led our country during the 20th century but died by the year 2008 lived an average of 1.9 years less than the average American male of the same age.
Hall of fame inductees and Emmy Award winners studied along with former Presidents and Vice Presidents
To tease apart these factors, a team of investigators at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health led by Dr. Bruce Link, studied Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Emmy Award winners, and former Presidents and Vice Presidents, comparing each to nominated losers in the same competition or election. The result: There were no consistent advantages for winners. The association between winning and longevity is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes nonexistent, though the specifics are revealing. Overall, the results suggest that access to resources and opportunity is more important than relative status.
- Emmy-winning actors enjoyed 2.7 more years of life than nominees who did not snag the trophy. Though Emmy-winning screenwriters were, mysteriously, at a 3-year disadvantage.
- Baseball Hall-of-Famers enjoyed no advantage in longevity over non-inducted nominees
- Presidents and Vice Presidents lose, on average, 5.3 years from their lives compared to the candidates they bested. While some of this is due to the impact of assassination, the disadvantage persists even when assassination is taken out of the equation.
"The relative deprivation theory would predict that losers would consistently be at a disadvantage for health and longevity compared to winners, but this is not what we see," says Dr. Link, in a March 11, 2013 news release, "New study explores link between status and health." Dr. Link is a professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
Advantages and disadvantages of winning mix opportunity with stress
A more likely explanation, he notes, is that the advantages and disadvantages of winning depend on the mix of opportunities and stresses that they bring. Winning an Emmy often leads to significant career opportunities that might not have been otherwise available. (The paper quotes actor John Larroquette saying "There's no doubt that having an Emmy precedes you through the door.") On the other hand, Baseball Hall of Fame induction occurs after playing careers are over and therefore has little bearing on career opportunities and earnings.
"Our findings provide an important correction to an overemphasis on relative deprivation as an explanation of health inequalities," said Dr. Link in the news release. "Relative deprivation likely plays some role in health inequalities, but it is not as important as the life circumstances and opportunities that result from one's socioeconomic position." Also check out the site, "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program."
Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, and Katrina Leupp (February 2013).
2012 Presidential Address: Transforming Capitalism through Real Utopias Erik Olin Wright (February 2013).
Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms Lauren A. Rivera (December 2012).
The Rise of the Super-Rich: Power Resources, Taxes, Financial Markets, and the Dynamics of the Top 1 Percent, 1949 to 2008 Thomas W. Volscho and Nathan J. Kelly (October 2012).
Moving Beyond Deterrence: The Effectiveness of Raising the Expected Utility of Abstaining from Terrorism in Israel Laura Dugan and Erica Chenoweth (August 2012).
Neighborhood Diversity, Metropolitan Constraints, and Household Migration Kyle Crowder, Jeremy Pais, and Scott J. South (June 2012).
Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010 Gordon Gauchat (April 2012).
Presidential Address: C-Escalation and D-Escalation: A Theory of the Time-Dynamics of Conflict Randall Collins (February 2012).
Revisiting the Gender Gap in Time-Use Patterns: Multitasking and Well-Being among Mothers and Fathers in Dual-Earner Families Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider (December 2011).
Dangerous Liaisons? Dating and Drinking Diffusion in Adolescent Peer Networks Derek A. Kreager and Dana L. Haynie (October 2011).
Learning to Be Illegal: Undocumented Youth and Shifting Legal Contexts in the Transition to Adulthood Roberto G. Gonzales (August 2011).
Consequences of Parental Divorce for Child Development Hyun Sik Kim (June 2011).
Socioeconomic Status and the Increased Prevalence of Autism in California Marissa D. King and Peter S. Bearman (April 2011).
Status Struggles: Network Centrality and Gender Segregation in Same- and Cross-Gender Aggression Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee (February 2011).