Social Status

Social status is a term used in social sciences such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology to indicate the level of respect and honor associated with a person’s position in society.

What is Social Status?
Anthropologists typically differentiate between two different types of social status:

  1. Achieved social status is status that comes as a result of a particular achievement; for example, a best-selling author may achieve high social status.
  2. Ascribed status is a status due to position at birth or other factors over which a person has little or no control. For example, white men have historically had a higher ascribed social status than white women and racial minorities.

Social status is affected by many factors, including personality traits, occupation, family, appearance, financial status, and culture. Status can change from context to context. A mother might, for example, have a high status in her family or community but relatively low status at work and low status in the larger culture. In many cultures, a person’s occupation is the primary determinant of his or her social status.

Different cultures establish different approaches to social status. An occupation might bring a high social status in one culture but a low status in another. Social status classifications can also shift over time. Social status is related to, but not the same as, class. People in higher economic classes often have a higher social status than people in lower economic classes.

Social Status and Mental Health
Mental health and social status are linked. A person with poor mental health might have a low social status because mental health issues interfere with his or her ability to achieve within their job or to appear competent around other people. Low social status can also contribute to mental health issues; a person who is discriminated against or who does not receive respect at work may experience low self-esteem, depression, or anger.

Further, social status can affect the way mental health professionals perceive clients. Therapists must work to counteract biases so that they do not inadvertently allow biases about people of relatively low social status versus people with high social status to negatively impact the treatment they provide.


  1. Social status. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-26-2015

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