Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



Socioeconomic disadvantage is linked to a variety of health problems ranging from obesity to mental illness (Ball & Crawford, 2005; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). The problem lies not in the inequalities between societies, but within societies themselves (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). An individual’s perception of his or her socioeconomic status (SES) relative to others may be more important to their health than objective measures of SES, such as income or education. Stress associated with the perception of low status could also be linked to negative health outcomes (Adler et al., 2000). In the current research, I examined the relationship between objective and subjective measures of SES, stress, and indicators of psychological and physiological wellbeing, specifically body mass index (BMI), general health, and self-esteem. Hypotheses included that both subjective and objective SES would be negatively related to stress and wellbeing, that the relationship between SES and wellbeing would be indirect, mediated by stress, and that subjective SES would be a better predictor of measures of wellbeing than objective measures of SES. These hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling on a demographically diverse community sample of urban women. Results indicated that subjective SES was a better predictor of negative health outcomes than objective indicators of SES and that stress mediated these relationships. The findings of this study supported the hypotheses, suggesting perceived relative social position measured by subjective SES and may be a better predictor of indicators of wellbeing than objective measures of socioeconomic status.