Socioeconomic status and cumulative disadvantage processes across the life course: implications for health outcomes

Can Rev Sociol. 2012 Feb;49(1):50-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-618x.2011.01280.x.


Given the complexity surrounding various interactions among health determinants and the challenge of being able to adequately describe the dynamic processes through which health determinants have their effects, the purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual overview demonstrating the effects of socioeconomic status and cumulative disadvantage on producing health disparities across the life course. The idea underlying cumulative disadvantage is that socioeconomic-based health inequalities will increase across the life course, mostly because of differential exposure to risk factors and access to protective resources. The advantage of life course sociology is its consideration of early life experiences, and the social and historical context of their occurrences, as important contingencies in producing these systematic socioeconomic differences in health gradients.

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sociology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Time Factors