The correlation between higher socio-economic status (SES) and health is well established, but causal connections remain obscure. With support from the Foundation, Barbara Wolfe will organize an intensive planning meeting at Russell Sage on March 8-9, 2007 to develop a formal empirical strategy for investigating the links between income and health. Fifteen physicians, biologists, public health experts, and economists will attend.
The first workshop outlines three pathways that may link income and health: 1) unhealthy behaviors such as smoking; 2) stress hormones leading to chronic health problems such as high blood pressure; and 3) environmental conditions such as pollution or lead paint. Wolfe and her colleagues see promise in exploring the tie between low SES and the accumulation of biological risks over time. CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) and NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) are particularly useful longitudinal datasets for capturing the range of biological functions affected by SES. Wolfe and her colleagues have also proposed the formation of a multi-disciplinary group focused on exploring these causal pathways.