The impact of ill-health on social mobility: A qualitative study

Resource type
The impact of ill-health on social mobility: A qualitative study
Socio-economic position is a well-established driver of health status in the United Kingdom. However, less is known about the reverse relationship — the effect health conditions have on socio-economic position and social mobility. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore individual experiences and perceptions of the relationship between ill-health and social mobility amongst people with long-term physical health conditions. Structured, in-depth interviews or focus group discussions were conducted with 37 people with long-term physical health conditions (including asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, back pain, arthritis and lipoedema) between November 2019 and January 2020. Participants were asked about the impact of physical health on their career, education, and social life. Factors affecting their ability to cope with their condition were also explored. Participants reported their conditions had been a barrier to upward, and a facilitator of downward social mobility. Physical health conditions were commonly reported to have affected the participants’ educational attainment, choice of occupation, financial stability, and retirement age. Participants also described a lack of understanding from employers about their conditions, with some experiencing instances of discrimination. Factors that reduced the extent to which their condition affects social mobility included, a feeling of control over their condition, support from their employers and knowledge of the available support systems. Individual experience, psychological make-up, and early-life experience also mediated the impact. Participants described clear regional differences in terms of access to services. Advice and support services were often filled by charitable organisations. In conclusion, physical ill-health was reported to have a substantial downward impact on social mobility; by negatively impacting a person's education, choice of occupation and earning ability. Key changes that may enable people to better manage their condition and its impact on social mobility include, improved training of and support from employers and better and consistent access to multi-disciplinary support services from the health and social care system.
SSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Journal Abbr
SSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Short Title
The impact of ill-health on social mobility
6/6/22, 1:55 PM
Library Catalog
Graff, H., Webber, L., Huerta, M. C., Olney, J., & Sassi, F. (2022). The impact of ill-health on social mobility: A qualitative study. SSM - Qualitative Research in Health, 2, 100101.