About Dr. Edith Chen
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Dr. Chen is co-director of the Foundations of Health Research Center at Northwestern University. Dr. Chen received a B.A. in history of science from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed a clinical internship at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in health psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Chen was an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 2000-2003. From 2003-2012, she was a professor in the Psychology department at the University of British Columbia and the Canada Research Chair in Health and Society. In 2012, Dr. Chen moved to Northwestern University, where she is now the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Psychology and a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. Her research focuses on understanding the psychosocial and biological contributors to socioeconomic disparities in health outcomes in children.
Across different social factors, one of the most consistent and robust findings is that individuals low in low socioeconomic status (SES) have poorer health than individuals high in SES. This relationship holds true whether health is measured as the prevalence rate of illness, the severity of illness, or the likelihood of mortality, and it is true for most types of diseases, as well as for many risk factors for diseases. This finding has been reported for many countries, including those with and those without universal health care. And it has been demonstrated across the life span, from childhood to older adulthood.
Our research explores the psychosocial and psychobiological pathways that explain why low SES is associated with poorer physical health in both childhood and adulthood. We investigate pathways at the neighborhood, family, and individual child levels, as well as social and physical environment factors that contribute to health disparities. We also explore questions around resilience – that is, why some youth who come from adversity manage to thrive and maintain good health. Lastly, we seek to better understand whether there are unintended costs of striving for upward mobility on physical health.