Nancy Adler, PhD

Professor of Medical Psychology
Population Health Discovery
Committee Members

My research spans two areas. One focuses on health behaviors, investigating why individuals engage in health-damaging behaviors and how their understanding of risk affects their choices. This research has primarily been in reproductive health, examining adolescent decision-making regarding contraception, conscious and preconscious motivation for pregnancy, perceptions of risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and use reproductive technologies for infertility.

My second area of work is on the impact of socioeconomic status (SES) on health and the role of psychosocial mediators. As Chair of the MacArthur Foundation Network on SES and Health, my interests span levels of analysis to examine:  (1) how social, psychological and biological factors associated with SES act together to determine the onset and progression of disease, and (2) how the relationship of SES and health may differ depending on gender and ethnicity. I have been testing a measure of subjective social status (the MacArthur “ladder”), which is designed to capture an individual’s global sense of their status. 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 outcomes across a range of populations.