Socioeconomic status and differential psychological and immune responses to a human-caused disaster

Yanping Jiang, Samuele Zilioli, Jacqueline Rodriguez-Stanley, Kristen M. Peek, Malcolm P. Cutchin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Individuals from different socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds may respond variably to stressful events, and such differences are likely to contribute to health disparities. The current study leveraged data collected before and after a petrochemical explosion and aimed to investigate how individuals from different SES backgrounds responded to this unexpected stressor in terms of perceived social support, perceived stress, and systemic inflammation. Methods: Data were drawn from 124 participants (Mage = 55.9 ± 16.1 years, 69.4% female, 29.0% White) living close to a petrochemical complex where the explosion occurred in 2005. SES was assessed at baseline, and perceived stress and inflammatory markers (i.e., C-reactive protein [CRP], interleukin-6 [IL-6]) were assessed at both pre- and post-explosion. Perceived social support was assessed at post-explosion. Results: Lower SES was associated with less perceived social support. Lower SES was also associated with a larger increase in perceived stress and higher levels of IL-6, but not CRP. Perceived social support did not moderate or mediate the effects of SES on changes in perceived stress, IL-6, or CRP. The associations between SES and inflammatory markers were also not explained by changes in perceived stress. Conclusion: Findings from this study support the idea that individuals from different SES backgrounds respond differently to stressors at both the psychosocial (perceived social support and perceived stress) and biological (inflammation) levels. Our findings also suggest that these two processes appear to act independently from each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-939
Number of pages5
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Inflammation
  • Perceived social support
  • Perceived stress
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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