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Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2015 Jul;58(7):749-57. doi: 10.1007/s00103-015-2166-x.

[Measuring subjective social status in health research with a German version of the MacArthur Scale].

[Article in German]

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Abteilung für Epidemiologie und Gesundheitsmonitoring, Robert Koch-Institut, General-Pape-Str. 62-66, 12101, Berlin, Deutschland,


In health research, socio-economic status (SES) is traditionally assessed using objective indicators (education, occupation, income). For a couple of years, there has been a growing body of studies that additionally assess the subjective social status (SSS) of respondents, mostly using the MacArthur Scale. The aim of this study was to examine the construct validity of a German-language version of this instrument and to investigate whether SSS is associated with health over and above objective SES. Analyses were based on data from a population-based pilot study carried out within the 'German Health Update' (GEDA) study conducted by the Robert Koch Institute (n = 1,571; age: 18-79 years). SSS was measured with the MacArthur scale asking respondents to place themselves on a 10-rung "social ladder". The strongest correlations to SSS were found with measures of similar constructs such as a multidimensional index of objective SES, income level, occupational position and educational attainment (r = 0.32-0.60; p < 0.001). Weaker correlations were found between SSS and measures of dissimilar constructs such as social support, mental well-being, depressiveness, and body-mass-index (r = - 0.29-0.30; p < 0.001). Factor analysis did not show considerable loadings of SSS on factors of mental well-being and depressiveness. After adjusting for age, education, occupation, and income, lower SSS remained significantly associated with higher odds of adverse health (p < 0.05). The findings of this study provide support for the convergent and discriminant validity of the MacArthur Scale and indicate that self-perceptions of social disadvantage may have health implications beyond the impact of objective SES.

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