Subjective socioeconomic status and adolescent health: a meta-analysis

Health Psychol. 2014 May;33(5):433-47. doi: 10.1037/a0033716. Epub 2013 Nov 18.


Objective: To comprehensively and quantitatively examine the association between subjective socioeconomic status (SES) and health outcomes during adolescence.

Methods: Forty-four studies met criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Information on study quality, demographics, subjective SES, health outcomes, and covariates were extracted from each study. Fisher's Z was selected as the common effect size metric across studies. Random-effect meta-analytic models were employed and fail-safe numbers were generated to address publication bias.

Results: Overall, subjective SES was associated with health during adolescence (Fisher's Z = .10). The magnitude of the effect varied by type of health outcome, with larger effects observed for mental health outcomes, self-rated health, and general health symptoms; and nonsignificant effects observed for biomarkers of health and substance-use-related health behaviors. Of the measures of subjective SES employed in the reviewed studies, perception of financial constraints, was most strongly associated with adolescent health outcomes. Analysis of covariates indicated that inclusion of objective SES covariates did not affect the association between subjective SES and health.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis has implications for the measurement of subjective SES in adolescents, for the conceptualization of subjective and objective SES, and for the pathways between SES and health in adolescents.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Perception*
  • Social Class*