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ANTC68H3 Chapter Notes -Eric Brunner, Rhesus Macaque, Cardiovascular Disease


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTC68H3
Professor
Bryce

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ANTC68 WINTER 2013
Week # 12: Socioeconomic Determinants of Health Stress and the Biology of Inequality by Eric
Brunner
Summary
Dominance hierarchy in society leads to metabolic differentials that elicit a fight or flight response
which produces chronic physiological and metabolic alterations (such as cortisol)
Biological effects of the psychosocial environment could explain health inequalities between
relatively affluent groups
Impact of Early Experience
Deprivation in childhood is linked to poor educational attainment and behavioral problems such as
hyperactivity and other conduct disorders which may be precursors of a lifetime of material and
emotional insecurity
Childhood social disadvantage leads to unfavorable stress history and physical and psychological
vulnerability
These disadvantages are not permanent and can be recovered with timely interventions
o Premature cardiovascular death is sensitive to early deprivation
o Cancer and risk of death from noncardiovascular non cancer causes depends more on
circumstances
o Rhesus monkeys experiment
o Psychogenic dwarfism is usually reversible
o Vogelnest orphanage by the affectionate Fraulein Grun
Stressors in the hierarchy
Psychosocial influences such as self esteem, relate to the social distribution of behavioral risks
Direct connections between the psychological characteristics of social position and biological
functioning
Prevalence of health inequalities is linked with lower socioeconomic status
Key contenders are those who have perceived financial strain, job insecurity, low control and
monotony at work, stressful life events and poor social networks, low self esteem and fatalism
All Stress out and nowhere to go?
Chronic stresses linked with social position and may result in modified neuroendocrine and
physiological functioning leading to increased vulnerability to disease
Our bodies have evolved to be prepared to stressors such a lethal threats but that works optimally
in the short term
Having prolonged external potentially lethal threats resulting in chronic activation of the stress
system is maladaptive
This is important as prolonged time in a social position that is not the highest on the rung
throughout life leads to a social distribution in prevalence of cardiovascular and other diseases
Main axes of neuroendocrine response prepare body for physical exertion in flight or fight
response
o Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system
Cortisol release
Unevenly distributed across social classes
Glucocortids result in suppression of immunity
Prolonged high levels of cortisol, such as in Cushing’s syndrome, may provoke
paranoia or depression
Loss in hippocampal neurons as well
o Sympathethic-adrenomedullary
Release of adrenaline and noradrenaline
Leads to arousal, sensory vigilance, bronchodilation, raised blood pressure,
haemoconcentration, energy mobilization
o Exercise limits effects of stress by blocking production of cortisol
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