The psychosocial context of financial stress: Implications for inflammation and psychological health

John A. Sturgeon, Anne Arewasikporn, Morris A. Okun, Mary Davis, Anthony D. Ong, Alex J. Zautra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Objective: Psychological distress may contribute to chronic activation of acute-phase inflammation. The current study investigated how financial stressors influence psychosocial functioning and inflammation. This study examined a) the direct relations between financial stress and inflammation; b) whether the relationships between financial stress and inflammation are mediated in part by negative interpersonal events, psychological distress, and psychological well-being; and c) whether social standing in one's community moderates the relations between financial stress and psychological distress, psychological well-being, and markers of inflammation (interleukin-6 [IL-6] and C-reactive protein). Methods: Stressful financial and interpersonal events over the previous year, perceived social status, indices of psychological well-being and distress, and levels of IL-6 and C-reactive protein were assessed in a community sample of 680 middleaged adults (ages 40-65 years). Results: Structural equation modeling analyses revealed significant relations among financial stress, interpersonal stress, and psychological distress and well-being, and complex relationships between these variables and inflammatory markers. Psychological well-being mediated the association between financial stress and IL-6 ([mediation] ab = 0.012, standard error [SE] = 0.006, p = .048). Furthermore, individuals with higher perceived social standing within their communities exhibited a stronger relation between negative financial events and both interpersonal stressors (interaction B = 0.067, SE = 0.017, p < .001) and C-reactive protein (interaction B = 0.051, SE = 0.026, p = .050). Conclusions: Financial stress demonstrates complex relations with inflammation, due partly to psychological well-being and social perceptions. Findings are discussed with regard to the social context of stress and physiological factors pertinent to stress adaptation and inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-143
Number of pages10
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Financial stress
  • Inflammation
  • Positive emotions
  • Social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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