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Friday, 15 February 2008

Scales and Ladders: A Conversation About Social Status and Health with Psychologist Nancy Adler

Injustice aside, it's no surprise that those at the top of the economic ladder live longer and healthier lives than those at the bottom. Poverty and powerlessness are, after all, corrosive forces.

What might surprise you, though, is that the same kind of disparity exists all along the ladder. In other words, where you subjectively place yourself on the socioeconomic scale — even if you own yachts and vacation homes in Europe — has a huge impact on your health.

Why this is so has captivated Nancy Adler, PhD, a professor of medical psychology and director of UCSF's Center for Health and Community, for years. And as she has studied and pondered the reasons, she and her colleagues are accumulating data that could revolutionize the way we think about stress prevention, the obesity epidemic and our own health.

Moreover, she hopes that as the scientific evidence mounts and the word spreads, Americans will appreciate that education and feelings of powerlessness are directly tied to longevity. Maybe then, she hopes, the nation will rethink and reorganize classroom education and the workplace to make both more humane.

By Jeff Miller



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