A life-span developmental perspective on social status and health

Duane F. Alwin, Linda A. Wray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


This article presents a life-span developmental (LSD) perspective on the linkages between social status and health. The objective is to develop a conceptual framework that is useful in understanding why people are differentially exposed to risks of disease or protective factors and the social conditions that link the effects of risk and protective factors to the social environment over the life span. The discussion distinguishes between the complementary concepts of "life span," "life cycle," and "life course," critical theoretical distinctions that may help refine hypotheses about the relationship between health and social status. We argue that life-cycle and life-course concepts can be viewed as embedded in a more general LSD perspective. Using the theoretical principles derived from this perspective, the review examines (a) gender differences, (b) race-ethnic experiences, (c) childhood experiences, (d) educational levels, (e) socioeconomic differences, and (f) age differences. The emphasis in the review is to highlight the value of a broader LSD perspective in the study of health inequalities. The article ends with a brief summary of where future research is headed and novel developments in the study of social status and health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue numberSPEC. ISS. OCT.
StatePublished - Oct 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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