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The Effect of Occupational Status on Health: Putting the Social in Socioeconomic Status

NCJ Number
Heliyon Volume: 9 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2023 Pages: E21766
Date Published
November 2023

This study offers health researchers new methodological and theoretical tools for understanding the link between perceived cultural status positions and a wide range of health outcomes by offering a measure that reflects underlying social dimensions of occupational status.


High status occupations support positive health outcomes through providing access to both material and psychosocial resources. However, common measures of occupational status such as occupational prestige scores fail to capture cultural esteem that certain occupations can provide because they are primarily associated with the material dimensions of status, like income. Drawing on Weberian conceptions of status and a body of social psychological research on the measurement of cultural meaning, the authors argue that measuring people's ratings of their occupations on three dimensions—evaluation (good/bad), potency (powerful/weak), and activity (active/inactive)—provides an occupational status indicator that more fully captures psychosocial resources like esteem that are associated with health than more commonly used occupational prestige scores. Using a nationally representative longitudinal health and wellbeing survey of 940 American law enforcement officers collected between 2020 and 2022, the authors evaluate the predictive ability of evaluation, potency, and activity (EPA) ratings across thirteen measures of health and wellbeing. They find that EPA ratings were significant and positive predictors of eleven of thirteen outcomes with stronger effects for mental health outcomes compared to physical health outcomes. EPA ratings were more predictive than more commonly used occupational prestige scores. The authors conclude that EPA ratings are better predictors of health outcomes than occupational prestige scores and so may allow health researchers to better understand the relationship between occupational status and health. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: November 1, 2023