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Subjective Social Status and Unhealthy Behaviors among South Korean Adults

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This study was an exploration of the associations between socioeconomic status (SES), particularly subjective social status (SSS), and unhealthy behaviors among South Korean adults.


Data were taken from the 2013 Korea Health Panel survey data. SSS was measured using the MacArthur scale. Overweight/obesity was defined as body mass index of ≥25. Other behaviors were assessed using closed questions. Sex-stratified logistic regression analyses were conducted with 10,482 respondents (N = 6875 for nonadherence), including SSS, conventional socioeconomic measures and demographics.


A pattern of SSS gradients in unhealthy behaviors, except for medication nonadherence, were observed among women, but they were statistically significant only for current smoking and physical inactivity. Such patterns were rarely observed among men, except for current smoking. Education-related inequalities also were found in overweight/obesity and current smoking for both sexes, but with an inverse gradient in overweight/obesity for men. An independent role of income was limited only to physical inactivity among women.


These findings highlight stronger socioeconomic gradients in unhealthy behaviors for women than for men in South Korea. SSS, together with education, may have greater implications than income in understanding unhealthy behaviors. A multifaceted approach is needed to understand the relationships more fully.
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Keywords: health behaviors; subjective social status

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Healthcare Management, Gachon University, Seongnam, South Korea.

Publication date: September 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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