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A large literature demonstrates associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and health, including physiological health and well-being. Moreover, gender differences are often observed among measures of both SES and health. However, relationships between SES and health are sometimes questioned given the lack of true experiments, and the potential biological and SES mechanisms explaining gender differences in health are rarely examined simultaneously.


To use a national sample of twins to investigate lifetime socioeconomic adversity and a measure of physiological dysregulation separately by sex.


Using the twin sample in the second wave of the Midlife in the United States survey (MIDUS II), biometric regression analysis was conducted to determine whether the established SES-physiological health association is observed among twins both before and after adjusting for potential familial-level confounds (additive genetic and shared environmental influences that may underly the SES-health link), and whether this association differs among men and women.


Although individuals with less socioeconomic adversity over the lifespan exhibited less physiological dysregulation among this sample of twins, this association only persisted among male twins after adjusting for familial influences.


Findings from the present study suggest that, particularly for men, links between socioeconomic adversity and health are not spurious or better explained by additive genetic or early shared environmental influences. Furthermore, gender-specific role demands may create differential associations between SES and health.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Annals of Behavioral Medicine following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version

Jennifer W Robinette, PhD, Christopher R Beam, PhD, Tara L Gruenewald, PhD, MPH, Can I Buy My Health? A Genetically Informed Study of Socioeconomic Status and Health, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2021;, kaab064,

is available online at


Society of Behavioral Medicine



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