Changes to the Social Patterning of Economic Resources and the Distribution of Mental and Biological Health Markers
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CitationVable, Anusha Murthy. 2015. Changes to the Social Patterning of Economic Resources and the Distribution of Mental and Biological Health Markers. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the relationship between life course social mobility and socio-economic disparities in health using data from the Health and Retirement Study. Chapter 1 explores how eligibility for the Korean War GI Bill, which provided socio-economic benefits to veterans, impacted the mental health of veterans compared to non-veterans. Using coarsened exact matching (CEM) to rigorously control for selection into the military, Korean War era veterans were matched to non-veterans. Regression models were used to predict number of depressive symptoms (NDS) and an indicator for depression. Pooled results were null, however veterans from low socio-economic backgrounds benefited from military service while veterans from high socio-economic backgrounds did not, resulting in a reduction in socio-economic disparities in NDS and depression prevalence. Chapter 2 examines if the benefits from Korean War era military service had a spillover effect to wives of veterans. Using CEM, veteran wives were matched to wives of non-veterans. Pooled results were null, however, among women from high socio-economic backgrounds, veteran wives had fewer NDS than non-veteran wives; there was no effect of husband’s military service among wives from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Chapter 3 examines the relationship between life course social mobility and markers for stress (C-reactive protein), blood sugar (hemoglobin A1c), cholesterol (high density lipoprotein), and kidney function (Cystatin C). Results from linear regression models indicate that all outcomes followed a social gradient whereby individuals who experienced high SES at both time points had the best biomarker levels, while individuals who experienced low SES at both time points had the worst biomarker levels. Individuals who experienced upward mobility over the life course had statistically equivalent biomarker levels as individuals who experienced high SES at both time points, while individuals who experienced downward mobility had statistically equivalent biomarker levels as individuals who experienced low SES at both time points. These results suggest that the deleterious effects of a low SES childhood may be ameliorated or eliminated by upward social mobility in adulthood for these outcomes.
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