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date: 12 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

A considerable body of research has pointed toward an association between occupational status and health outcomes, such that employees in lower-status occupations experience poorer health outcomes and shorter life expectancies than those in higher-status occupations. These differences in health across incremental levels of occupational status are referred to as the health gradient and have been linked to social, psychological, and economic factors that distinguish various levels of the employment hierarchy. However, a theoretical framework that may explain the psychosocial mechanisms that underlie these associations has not been adequately established. In this chapter we discuss research on the health gradient and several of its psychosocial determinants, describe research from self-determination theory on the promotion of physical and psychological health, present an application of self-determination theory to understanding the mechanisms that account for the health gradient, and call for future research on this topic.

Keywords: basic psychological needs, health gradient, occupational health, occupational status, psychosocial determinants of health, self-determination theory, Whitehall studies

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