Socioeconomic status, or your social or economic position in societal hierarchies, impacts a lot in your life. This includes your physical health and your mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, both of these forms of health were at risk. So, does having status lead to better health during a crisis? Not necessarily! Read on to learn more.
If there is one thing that you should know about socioeconomic status, it’s that high status usually relates to good outcomes. The more access you have to money, education, and valuable social ties, the less stressful your life will be. This is because individuals who have lower socioeconomic status tend to experience greater daily hassles and hazards, such as crime, crowding, pollution, and unfair treatment. When you are able to benefit from places and interactions that support your health, instead of detracting from it, your stress lowers.
This is important because your stress levels are directly linked to a host of mental and physical outcomes. Decreasing your stress is key to living a happy and healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, it is really hard to change your socioeconomic status quickly. Even if you are able to “climb the corporate ladder”, it can take many years of working for low wages before you are able to gain access to increased socioeconomic benefits.
Crises Might Exacerbate The Problem
Because crisis situations require resources to survive, those who have better access to begin with, might be better off. For example, in New York, areas that had higher numbers of frontline workers tended to fare more poorly during COVID-19. These communities have less wealth and less opportunity to work from home. As a result, paying bills was more distressing and they were more likely to contract COVID-19.
In wealthier communities, by contrast, individuals were able to stock up on needed supplies and work remotely. They were also less likely to have pre-existing conditions that could exacerbate worry about COVID-19 – or the severity of the virus if contracted. However, despite that fact, wealthier individuals have reported greater declines in their well-being since COVID-19 began. This suggests that some of the impacts of COVID-19 might be relative, instead of just absolute.
What does new research say about status and COVID-19?
Brand new research on COVID-19 and well-being paints a similar picture to the above, but adds some interesting insights. First, having more money made people less depressed and more satisfied with their lives during COVID-19. This was because individuals had greater financial and personal resources, as well as more control over their daily lives. However, whether you had a higher or lower income didn’t predict the extent to which your outcomes changed during lockdown. In other words, you started off more well – and stayed more well – during the pandemic if you were wealthier. Those with lower income started off less well – and stayed less well too.
With regard to level of education, those who had a higher education actually fared worse during the pandemic, compared to those with lower education. They also experienced a greater decline in depression and life satisfaction as the pandemic unfolded. While this is surprising, it could be because those with higher education had more disruptions to their normal way of working. For example, while it is nice to be able to work from home in the long-term, the short-term stress of switching to leading remotely could be taxing. Also, having kids schooling from home while working from home added extra potential stressors into the mix. Overall, it’s important to look out not only for those who make less money, but also for those in higher ranking positions, during crisis!
We have talked about how to best fare the COVID-19 crisis several times, including here and here. How have you been holding up? We hope you’re all taking time to care for yourselves during this trying time.