Class discrimination leads to poor health


Many teens experience poor health as a result of social class discrimination. A new study from Dr. Thomas Fuller-Rowell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison explores the findings.

First study to link class discrimination and health

Researchers and health professionals have long known of a link between poverty and poor health. Many reasons have been explored. This is the first study to look at the impact of class discrimination on health

“The findings of our study suggest that the stress caused by social-class discrimination may be an important factor in explaining the negative influence of poverty on health. Experiences of discrimination are often subtle rather than blatant, and the exact reason for unfair treatment is often not clear to the victim,” explained Fuller-Rowell.

Blood samples show higher stress hormones

Participants in the study were all 17 years old and involved in other poverty based studies at Cornell. The majority were white. They were asked to respond to questions like “How often do people treat you differently because of your background?” They also volunteered blood and urine samples which measured stress related hormones like epinephrine, cortisol and norepinephrine.

In poorer teens who suffered a lot of perceived discrimination, their measurable stress levels were higher and their health was poorer. “Our findings suggest that the stigma associated with poverty can lead to class discrimination, which, overtime, can impact an individual’s health,” said Fuller-Rowell.

Better dialogue is necessary to make change

Fuller-Rowell suggested that Americans need to get better at recognizing, acknowledging, and discussing these subtle types of discrimination. “Americans tend not to be comfortable talking about social class, because this is supposed to be a class-less country. But in terms of mitigating the effects of class discrimination, talking about it in schools and in the media is a beginning.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychological Science


The information provided on the is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Subscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

PsyWeb Poll

Are you currently taking or have you ever been prescribed anti-depressants?: