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Socioeconomic Status and Stress - How Your Socioeconomic Status Can Cause Stress

How Does Your Socioeconomic Level Effect Your Stress Level?


Updated June 20, 2014

Socioeconomic Status and Stress - How Your Socioeconomic Status Can Cause Stress

Job Stress Goes Up As Income Level Goes Down. ©iStockphoto.com

Who would you expect to experience more stress: the high-powered executive, or the worker of lower socioeconomic status? Many people would expect those who hold higher-powered jobs to experience more stress to go with those jobs, but according to research from Psychosomatic Medicine and other research sources, it's those in lower socioeconomic levels who experience greater levels of stress and experience more stress-related health problems as well. Consider the following studies:
  • According to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, higher stress hormone levels were found in those of lower socioeconomic status (lower income and education levels).

  • Job stress has been correlated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that have been linked to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Research has found that those in higher-level jobs experience metabolic syndrome to a lesser degree.

People of lower socioeconomic status may experience greater levels of stress and poorer health outcomes for several reasons:
  • Higher-Paying Jobs Bring Greater Personal Control: It's not always the case, but more often it's the higher-level workers who have more personal choices in their lifestyles, and more resources at their disposal, leading to lower levels of stress.

  • Those In Higher Socioeconomic Levels Make Healthier Choices: Those of lower socioeconomic status tend to deal with stress by smoking. They're also more likely to skip breakfast, and have a less diverse social network. These factors are all correlated with poorer health outcomes.

  • Higher Socioeconomic Status Brings Greater Resources For Health: Those in lower levels of socioeconomic status tend to have poorer health outcomes because they're less able to take care of their health and even afford health care, among other things. This contributes to greater levels of stress.

  • Lower Socioeconomic Status Children Get Less Training In Stress Management: It's been found that some children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds get less training in critical thinking and in anticipating crises. This is significant, because stress can be managed in large part by anticipating stressful events and making plans to reduce their stressful impact. Making healthier choices and planning ahead are behaviors that can be taught, but they may not be taught as much in every family.

While some things can't be changed, people of all socioeconomic levels can decrease their lifestyle stress and improve their health by doing the following:
  • Stop Stress Before It Becomes Severe: These suggestions, which are also endorsed by the Mayo Clinic, can help you stop excess stress you have in your lifestyle and take on healthier coping behaviors.

  • Give Up Unhealthy Coping Behaviors: If you're smoking, drinking excessively, overeating, or coping with stress in other unhealthy ways, it's important to stop. These habits can all increase your overall stress level and take a toll on your health at the same time. (Find help in the Unhealthy Behaviors Section.)

  • Take On Healthy Coping Habits: Other healthier habits can relieve stress and improve your health, too. Learn more about exercise, meditation, and other healthier stress relievers here.

  • Cut Out Excess Stressors In Your Life: You may want to take this quiz to see what areas of your lifestyle may be causing you unnecessary additional stress. Once you find out where the excess stress is coming from, you can take steps to prevent it. Resources to help are included in the quiz!

Here are some additional resources from this site that can help you maintain a healthier, less stressed lifestyle:
  • Get Daily Stress Tips: You can learn a little about stress management each day with these free stress management tips, emailed to you daily. Each tip is brief, with additional resources that you can explore if you have time.

  • Subscribe To The Weekly Newsletter: This free newsletter, sent twice a week, keeps you informed on the latest stress research and the latest resources from this site. Fun weekly polls are also included, so you can see what others have to say about stress in their lifes

  • Free E-Course: Low Stress Living: This free 10-week e-course can help you understand the role of stress in your life and your health, and take steps to change your lifestyle to a less stressed and more healthy one!

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Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Baum A. Socioeconomic status is associated with stress hormones. Psychosomatic Medicine. May-June 2006.

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