In recent years, scholars from a variety of disciplines have turned to the potential psychosocial determinants of health in pursuit of an explanation for socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities. This review discusses the literature on psychosocial factors and mental and physical health, focusing on the roles of subjective status, self/identity, and perceived discrimination. We argue that current research may have obscured important social psychological considerations and that it is an opportune time to reconsider the social psychology of disparities. A social psychology of disparities could provide a bridge between those who encourage research on health's “upstream” causes and those who encourage research on “downstream” mechanisms precisely because social psychology is concerned with the vast “meso” level of analysis that many allude to but few explicitly traverse. We point to the importance of person-environment interactions, contingencies, reciprocality, and meaning. Although psychosocial factors might not explain disparities in the manner much psychosocial research would seem to suggest, psychosocial factors are important causes in their own right and, when considered in a more sophisticated social psychological light, may help to refine disparities theory and research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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