According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Americans suffer from 1 billion colds a year. Correspondingly, previous research has shown that lower socioeconomic status (SES) during childhood is associated with lower adult health, including decreased resistance to the common cold. This correlation between childhood SES and common cold susceptibility may be mediated by an individual's optimism and purpose in life. Of interest, several studies have found evidence that higher childhood SES is associated with a higher purpose of life and higher optimism. Furthermore, previous evidence has confirmed that higher optimism and higher purpose of life are linked to better overall health, including greater resistance to developing the common cold. More specifically, both higher optimism and higher purpose in life are associated with better physical health and less unhealthy behaviors, thereby strengthening the immune system and increasing resistance to the common cold. Given this past research, this study analyzes the relationship of childhood SES and susceptibility to the common cold, mediated by optimism and purpose of life. Data was obtained from the Common Cold Project, analyses were conducted among 213 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 who were exposed to rhinovirus through nasal drops. Subjective and objective measures of both childhood SES and common cold assessments were used in the mediation analysis, which was performed using the PROCESS macro tool on SPSS. Significant correlations were found between the direct effects of subjective childhood SES and optimism (b = 0.31, p = 0.040) and optimism and subjective measures of cold (b = -0.09, p = 0.023). However, meditation analyses suggested that neither optimism nor purpose of life meditated the association between childhood SES and susceptibility to the common cold for all objective and subjective assessments (i.e., they did not account for the indirect effect). Overall, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms by which childhood SES is associated with health outcomes, such as the common cold.
Munduruca, Stephanie; Luong, Vivian; and Jenkins, Brooke N., "Exploring Optimism and Purpose in Life as Mediators of the Association Between Childhood Socioeconomic Status and Common Cold Susceptibility" (2020). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 412.