Subjective social status: its determinants and its association with measures of ill-health in the Whitehall II study

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Mar;56(6):1321-33. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00131-4.


The purpose of this study was twofold-(1) investigate the role of subjective social status as a predictor of ill-health, with a further exploration of the extent to which this relationship could be accounted for by conventional measures of socioeconomic position; (2) examine the determinants of a relatively new measure of subjective social status used in this study. A 10 rung self-anchoring scale was used to measure subjective social status in the Whitehall II study, a prospective cohort study of London-based civil service employees. Results indicate that subjective status is a strong predictor of ill-health, and that education, occupation and income do not explain this relationship fully for all the health measures examined. The results provide further support for the multidimensional nature of both social inequality and health. Multiple regression shows subjective status to be determined by occupational position, education, household income, satisfaction with standard of living, and feeling of financial security regarding the future. The results suggest that subjective social status reflects the cognitive averaging of standard markers of socioeconomic situation and is free of psychological biases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angina Pectoris / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Government Agencies
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • London / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors