Socioeconomic Status, Genetic Risk Factors and Psychological Distress: Exploring Independent, Correlated and Interactive Effects

Matt Bradshaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark D. Hayward, University of Texas at Austin

Research shows that both socioeconomic status (SES) and genetic risk factors are associated with psychological distress. To date, however, very little research has explored whether and how these two predictors might be interconnected. The present study addresses this shortcoming by formulating, and then empirically testing, five conceptual models of gene-environment effects. Results show that (1) both SES (inversely) and genetic risk (positively) are significantly associated with levels of psychological distress in bivariate models, (2) that the relationship between SES and distress is explained, to a considerable degree, by genetic risk factors, (3) that the correlation between genetic risk factors and distress is stronger at low levels of SES, and (4) that the association between SES and distress exists primarily among individuals who are at high genetic risk. The implications of these findings for sociological inquiry are discussed, and an agenda for future research is outlined.

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Presented in Session 43: Genetic Influences and Demographic Behaviors