Article Text


Intergenerational social mobility and allostatic load in Great Britain
  1. Patrick Präg1,
  2. Lindsay Richards2
  1. 1 Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Centre for Social Investigation, Nuffield College and Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patrick Präg, Department of Sociology and Nuffield College, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3UQ, UK; patrick.prag{at}


Background Intergenerational social mobility is hypothesised to be a stressful process that has a negative effect on health. By examining the relationship between own socioeconomic position, parental socioeconomic position and allostatic load (AL) in a representative sample of the British population, we test this hypothesis.

Methods Our study uses cross-sectional data from 9851 adult participants of waves 2 and 3 of Understanding Society. The relationship between parental occupational class at age 14 years, respondents’ social class at the time of the interview and AL is explored by means of diagonal reference models, which allow us to disentangle the effects of parental social class, own social class and the mobility process. The AL score comprises the following biomarkers: (1) total cholesterol, (2) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, (3) triglycerides, (4) glycated haemoglobin, (5) C-reactive protein, (6) fibrinogen, (7) systolic blood pressure, (8) diastolic blood pressure, (9) resting heart rate, (10) body mass index and (11) waist circumference.

Results AL is particularly high among the stable working class and low among the stable upper class. On average, current class and origin class exert about equal weight on current AL. However, social mobility—regardless of whether upwards or downwards—is not detrimental for AL. Furthermore, we find evidence that class of origin may be less important among those outside the labour market for reasons other than retirement.

Conclusion Both own social class and parental social class influence AL to a similar extent. However, we find no evidence that mobility trajectories exert any effects, good or bad, on AL.

  • social and life-course epidemiology
  • social class
  • health inequalities
  • inequalities

Statistics from


  • Contributors PP devised the study. LR and PP conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data from the study are available at the UK Data Archive. Stata code to replicate the analyses is available on-line, DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/6FUYJ.

  • Presented at Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2017 Summer Meeting of RC28 in New York, a 2017 seminar at the Mannheim Center for European Social Research (MZES), the 2017 ECSR conference in Milan, the 2018 annual meeting of the PAA in Denver and a 2018 workshop at Nuffield College in Oxford.

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