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How Socioeconomic Status Affects Family Health

Quenla Haehnel presented research on the relationship between individual socioeconomic status and family health at the National Council on Family Relations Conference.

Quenla Haehnel
Photo by Quenla Haehnel

Quenla Haehnel, a junior studying Epidemiology, wanted to know how socioeconomic status affects family health.

The first step to discovering the answer was to objectively define family health. In 2019, a group of BYU public health professors and others in the public health community developed the family health scale, a way to measure family health. The family health scale is comprised of four domains: family social and emotional health processes, family healthy lifestyle, family health resources, and family external social supports. To read more about their research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, follow this link.

Haehnel’s research was the first to use the scale. Her research began in the Fall of 2019 in Dr. Crandall’s mentored research class, as part of the Brain and Family Health Lab. After receiving a CURA grant (College Undergraduate Research Award), Haehnel began to collect data. She sent a survey to a diverse sample of a thousand adults in the United States, analyzed the data, and presented her research in a poster at the National Council of Family Relations Conference.

What did she discover? Haehnel reported, “We found that family income was positively associated with all four domains of family health. Socioeconomic status was associated with two of the four, and education was not associated with any.” Education’s lack of correlation with family health could be due to its connection to income. Haehnel was not surprised to see the way that socioeconomic status affected family health. She explained that socioeconomic status can make all the difference when it comes to health care and resources. For example, not having the option to choose more effective medications can cause stress that affects entire families.

Haehnel hopes that her research can serve to emphasize the importance of the family. She said, “I believe that having strong families is where we can start trying to solve the problems of health disparities and a lack of access to health services.” She also hopes that her research will inform the public about “the relationship between individual health indicators and the well-being of the family, as well as prompt further research.”