MacArthur SES & Health Network

Nancy Adler

Nancy E. Adler, Network Chair

Professor of Medical Psychology, UCSF Director, Health Psychology Program Director, Center for Health and Community Vice-Chair, Department of Psychiatry

c/o Health Psychology Program
University of California, San Francisco
3333 California Street, Suite 465
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel: (415) 476-7759
Fax: (415) 476-7744

Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts
B.A. 1968
Major: Psychology
Minor: Sociology

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Ph.D. 1973
Major: Social Psychology
Minor: Personality/Clinical Psychology

Research Interests

Nancy Adler's research spans two areas. One area is focused on the impact of socioeconomic status on health. As Chair of the Network, her interests are in spanning levels of analysis to examine how social, psychological and biological factors associated with SES act together to determine the onset and progression of disease. She is also examining how the relationship of SES & health may differ depending on gender and ethnicity. Along with several colleagues, she has been developing a measure of subjective social status (MacStatus). This measure is designed to capture a common element of traditional indicators of socioeconomic status reflecting relative social standing. One version of the "ladder" assesses standing on traditional SES indicators while another assesses standing in one’s community. Both are showing strong associations with health variables (see Psychosocial Notebook).

Her second area of research focuses on health behaviors, investigating why individuals engage in health-damaging behaviors and how their understanding of risk affects their choices. Her research has primarily been in reproductive health, examining adolescent decision-making regarding contraception, conscious and preconscious motivation for pregnancy, and perception of risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Currently she is P.I. of a program project grant on the impact of new reproductive technologies for infertility. This project will examine how women and couples decide about the initiation of IVF and continuation following failure, the psychological effects, the social and economic costs, and the medical outcomes for the newborns.

Selected Publications

Adler, N. E., Boyce, W. T., Chesney, M., Folkman, S. & Syme, L. (1993). Socioeconomic inequalities in health: No easy solution. JAMA, 269(24), 3140-3145.

Adler, N. E. & Matthews, K. (1994). Health Psychology: Why do some people get sick and some stay well? Annual Review of Psychology, 45, 229-59.

Adler, N. E., Boyce, T., Chesney, M., Cohen, S., Folkman, S., Kahn, R., & Syme, S.L. (1994). Socioeconomic status and health: The challenge of the gradient. American Psychologist, 49. 15-24.

Coriell, M. & Adler, N. E. (1996). Socioeconomic status and women’s health: How do we measure SES among women? Women’s Health, 2(3), 141-156.

Moore, P. J., Turner, R. A., Park, C. L., & Adler, N. E. (1996). The impact of behavior and addiction on psychological models of cigarette and alcohol use during pregnancy. Addictive Behaviors, 21(5), 645-658.

Dolcini, M. M., Adler, N. E. & Ginsberg, D. (1996). Factors influencing agreement between self-reports and biological measures of smoking among adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 6 (4), 515-542.

Adler, N. E. & Coriell, M. (1997). Socioeconomic status and women's health. In S. J. Gallant, G. P. Keita, and R. Royak-Schaler (Eds.), Health care for women: psychological, social, and behavioral influences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press, 11-23.

Park, C. L., Moore, P. J., Turner, R. A., & Adler, N. E. (1997). The roles of constructive thinking and optimism in psychological and behavioral adjustment during pregnancy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 584-592.

Brown, H. D. & Adler, N. E. (1998). Socioeconomic status. Encyclopedia of Mental Health. San Diego: Academic Press, 555-561.

Adler, N. E., Horowitz, M., Garcia, A., & Moyer, A. (1998). Further validation of a scale to assess positive states of mind. Psychosomatic Medicine, 60, 26-32.

Seeman, T. E. & Adler, N. E. (1998). Older Americans: Who will they be? National Forum, 78 (2), 22-25.

Ostrove, J. M., & Adler, N. E. (1998). Socioeconomic status and health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 11, 649-653.

Ostrove, J. M. & Adler, N. E. (1998). The relationship of socioeconomic status, labor force participation and health among men and women. Journal of Health Psychology, 3(5), 451-463

Adler, N.E., Marmot, M., McEwen, B.S. & Stewart, J. (Eds.) (1999). Socioeconomic Status and Health in Industrial Nations: Social, Psychological and Biological Pathways. Ann NY Acad Sci. Vol #:896.

Adler, N.E. & Ostove, J.M. (1999). SES & Health: What we know and what we don’t. In Adler, N.E., Marmot, M., McEwen, B.S. & Stewart, J. (Eds.) Socioeconomic Status and Health in Industrial Nations: Social, Psychological and Biological Pathways. Ann NY Acad Sci. Vol #:896.

Ostrove, J. M., Feldman, P. & Adler, N. E. (1999). Relations among socioeconomic status indicators and health for african americans and whites. Journal of Health Psychology, 4(4), 451-463.

Adler, N. E., Epel, E., Castallazzo, G., & Ickovics, J. (2000). Relationship of subjective and objective social status with psychological and physiological functioning in preliminary data in healthy white women. Health Psychology, 19(6), 586-592.

Ostrove, J. M., Adler, N. E., Cuppermann, M. C., & Washington, A. E. (2000). Objective and subjective assessments of socioeconomic status and their relationship to self-rated health in an ethnically diverse sample of pregnant women. Health Psychology, 19(6), 614-618.

Adler, N. E. (2001). A consideration of multiple pathways from socioeconomic status to health. In J. A. Auerbach & B. K. Krimgold (Eds.) Income, socioeconomic status, and health: Exploring the relationships. Washington, D. C., National Policy Association.

Coriell, M. & Adler, N. E. (2001). Social ordering and health. In McEwen, B. S. & Goodman, H. M. (Eds.). Coping with the environment: Neural and endocrine mechanisms. Volume IV of the Handbook of Physiology (Section 7: The endocrine system). New York: Oxford University Press.

Goodman, E., Adler, N.E., Kawachi, I., Frazier, A.L., Huang, B. & Colditz, G.A. (2001). Adolescents' perceptions of social standing: Development and evaluation of a new indicator. Pediatrics, 108(2). Retrived August 30, 2001 from

Adler, N.E. & Newman, K. (2002). Socioeconomic disparities in health: Pathways and policies. Health Affairs, 34(1), 6-14.

Moore, P.J., Adler, N.E., Williams, D.R. & Jackson, J.S. (2002). Socioeconomic status and health: The role of sleep. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64, 337-344.

Singh-Manoux, A., Adler, N.E. & Marmot, M.G. (2003). Subjective social status: Its determinants and its association with measures of ill-health in the Whitehall II study. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 1321-1333.

Adler, N.E. (2003). Community preventive services: Do we know what we need to know to improve health and reduce disparities? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(3S), 10-11.

Adler, N.E. (2003). Looking beyond the borders of the health sector: The socioeconomic determinants of health. In E.R. Rubin & S.L. Schappert (Eds.). Meeting Health Needs in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Association of Academic Health Centers, 14-27.

Goodman, E., Adler, N.E., Daniels, S.R., Morrison, J.A., Slap, G.B. & Dolan, L.M. (2003). Impact of objective and subjective social status on obestity in a biracial cohort of adolscents. Obesity Research, 11, 1018-1026.

Internet Links

Another useful website for Nancy Adler:

Center for Community and Health


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