Socioeconomic status and health: the potential role of environmental risk exposure

Annu Rev Public Health. 2002;23:303-31. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.23.112001.112349. Epub 2002 Jan 10.


Among several viable explanations for the ubiquitous SES-health gradient is differential exposure to environmental risk. We document evidence of inverse relations between income and other indices of SES with environmental risk factors including hazardous wastes and other toxins, ambient and indoor air pollutants, water quality, ambient noise, residential crowding, housing quality, educational facilities, work environments, and neighborhood conditions. We then briefly overview evidence that such exposures are inimical to health and well-being. We conclude with a discussion of the research and policy implications of environmental justice, arguing that a particularly salient feature of poverty for health consequences is exposure to multiple environmental risk factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developed Countries
  • Developing Countries
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class*


  • Environmental Pollutants