Exceptions to the rule: Exceptional health among the disadvantaged
Countless studies show that socioeconomic status (SES) is strongly related to morbidity and mortality. However, few studies consider the substantial variability in health within socioeconomic strata. In this article, the authors examine the incompatibility between stratification-based theories of health inequality and empirical patterns of exceptional health among the socially disadvantaged. Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Survey (1992-2008), the authors test the mediating and moderating effects of various predictors of exceptional health (no chronic diseases or physical limitations) for middle-aged and older adults with and without a high school education. Results suggest that a combination of demographic characteristics, family and religious factors, socioeconomic resources, health behaviors, psychological makeup, and biological attributes play differing roles in protecting the health of disadvantaged men and women. The findings underscore the complex associations among SES, protective mechanisms, and health and offer new insight into how disadvantaged adults defy their odds of poor health. © 2011 The Author(s).
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