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Psychol Sci. 2012 Jul 1;23(7):734-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797612439720. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

Poverty and health: the mediating role of perceived discrimination.

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Population Health Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin, 610 Walnut St., WARF Office Building #707, Madison, WI 53726-2397, USA.


Social-class discrimination is evident in many societies around the world, but little is known about its impact on the poor or its role as an explanatory variable in the link between socioeconomic status and health. The current study tested the extent to which perceived discrimination explains socioeconomic gradients in physical health. Participants were 252 adolescents (51% male, 49% female; mean age = 17.51 years, SD = 1.03 years) who participated in Wave 3 of an ongoing longitudinal study focusing on the developmental consequences of rural poverty. Physical health was operationalized as allostatic load, a measure of cumulative wear and tear on the body caused by overactivation of physiological systems that respond to stress. Mediation analyses suggested that 13% of the effect of poverty on allostatic load is explained by perceived discrimination. The findings suggest that social-class discrimination is one important mechanism behind the influence of poverty on physical health.

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