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Keywords:

  • SES;
  • allostatic load;
  • peripheral biology

This chapter focuses on evidence linking socio-economic status (SES) to “downstream” peripheral biology. Drawing on the concept of allostatic load, we examine evidence linking lower SES with greater cumulative physiological toll on multiple major biological regulatory systems over the life course. We begin by reviewing evidence linking lower SES to poorer trajectories of aging in multiple, individual physiological systems, followed by evidence of the resulting cumulative, overall burdens of physiological dysregulation seen among those of lower SES. The role of cumulative physiological dysregulation in mediating SES gradients in morbidity and mortality is then examined. We conclude with discussion of the question of interactions between SES (and other such environmental factors) and genetic endowment, and their potential consequences for patterns of physiological activity—an area of research that appears poised to contribute significantly to our understanding of how social conditions “get under the skin” to affect health and aging.