Allostatic load and exposure histories of disadvantage

Lucy J Prior*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


The stress pathway posits that those in disadvantaged circumstances are exposed to a higher degree of stressful experiences over time resulting in an accumulated biological burden which subsequently relates to poorer health. Trajectories of disadvantage, in the form of neighbourhood deprivation and structural social capital, are evaluated in their relation to allostatic load representing the cumulative “wear and tear” of chronic stress. This paper uses data from the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society in a latent class growth analysis. We identify groups of exposure trajectories over time using these classes to predict allostatic load at the final wave. The results show that persistent exposure to higher deprivation is related to worse allostatic load. High structural social capital over time relates to lower allostatic load, in line with a stress buffering effect, though this relationship is not robust to controlling for individual sociodemographic characteristics. By demonstrating a gradient in allostatic load by histories of deprivation, this analysis supports a biological embedding of disadvantage through chronic exposure to stressful environments as an explanation for social health inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7222
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council PhD studentship in Advanced Quantitative Methods, grant number ES/J50015X/1.

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: Understanding Society is an initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and various Government Departments, with scientific leadership by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, and survey delivery by NatCen Social Research and Kantar Public. The research data are distributed by the UK Data Service.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • neighbourhood deprivation
  • social capital
  • allostatic load
  • biosocial
  • health inequalities


Dive into the research topics of 'Allostatic load and exposure histories of disadvantage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this