Subjective Social Status, Perceived Social Mobility and Health in China

Lei Jin, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
Tony Tam, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

The study of social determinants of health has emphasized the health effects of perceived relative social position, above and beyond objective socioeconomic characteristics. Past literature, however, has failed to distinguish two inherently correlated but theoretically different sources of apparent relative status effects on one’s health status: perceived status at a given time and the change in one’s perceived status. In this paper, we use data from a nationally representative sample to examine the relationships between subjective social status, perceived social mobility and health. Our investigation so far shows that in China, most people regard themselves to be on the lower or middle rungs of the social ladder. Perceived social status is a strong predictor of self-rated health and mental health after an extensive array of socioeconomic indicators is controlled. Those who experienced or expected to experience downward mobility were more likely to report worse health outcomes, especially for mental health.

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Presented in Session 178: Socioeconomic Status and Health - Cross-National Research