Social Inequalities in Aging and Health

Award Year:
James House
Aging, Social Determinants of Health
While it is increasingly recognized that medical care is not a major determinant in improving population health, the effects of medical, socioeconomic, and psychosocial factors remain subject to dispute. Dr. House articulates and tests a conceptual framework arguing that psychosocial and socioeconomic conditions of life are major determinants of population health. His work clarifies the combined effects on health of such factors as smoking, drinking, exercise, weight, financial insecurity, social relationships and support, personality dispositions, religious participation and beliefs, and social roles. Using a longitudinal national probability sample of 3,617 adults, he provides an empirical assessment of his conceptual framework. The results illuminate: 1) the prospective impact of psychosocial and socioeconomic variables on mortality and changes in health; 2) the degree to which persons with favorable risk factors can age successfully or postpone major morbidity and functional limitations until late in life; and 3) how differential exposure to risk factors can account for socioeconomic and related social inequalities in health, as well as the way health changes with age.