Socioeconomic status is associated with health disparities, but underlying psychosocial mechanisms have not been fully identified. Dispositional optimism may be a psychosocial process linking socioeconomic status with health. We hypothesized that lower optimism would be associated with greater social disadvantage and poorer social mobility. We also investigated whether life satisfaction and positive affect showed similar patterns. Participants from the Midlife in the United States study self-reported their optimism, satisfaction, positive affect, and socioeconomic status (gender, race/ethnicity, education, occupational class and prestige, income). Social disparities in optimism were evident. Optimistic individuals tended to be white and highly educated, had an educated parent, belonged to higher occupational classes with more prestige, and had higher incomes. Findings were generally similar for satisfaction, but not positive affect. Greater optimism and satisfaction were also associated with educational achievement across generations. Optimism and life satisfaction are consistently linked with socioeconomic advantage and may be one conduit by which social disparities influence health.
Boehm JK, Chen Y, Williams DR, Ryff C, Kubzansky LD (2015) Unequally Distributed Psychological Assets: Are There Social Disparities in Optimism, Life Satisfaction, and Positive Affect? PLoS ONE 10(2), e0118066. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118066
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