Being at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to social status can damage your health, according to a new US study.

Researchers at Duke University in America experimented on monkeys, finding that having a low status changes the immune system, in such a way that there is an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and mental health issues.

The scientists looked at 45 captive Rhesus monkeys to see what sort of impact their status had on their health.

While the research was carried out on monkeys, experts say that the research is applicable to people as well. The findings have now been published in the repected Science journal, and claims that the effects were not down to having unhealthy behaviours, but simply as a result of being a poorer group.

Currently, the difference in life expectancy between the poorest and the richest members of society, is huge. The richest woman can expect to live more than a decade longer, while the figure is 15 years for men.

While the reason has always been put down to those who have poorer social status having worse lifestyle habits, including eating more junk food, smoking, drinking alcohol and a lack of exercise.

However, this latest research says that even when you take all of those factors out of consideration, low social status still has an adverse impact on the body.

One of the researchers, Dr Noah Snyder-Mackler, said: “It suggests there’s something else, not just the behaviours of these individuals, that’s leading to poor health.

“We know smoking, eating unhealthily and not exercising are bad for you – that puts the onus on the individual that it’s their fault.

“Our message brings a positive counter to that – there are these other aspects of low status that are outside of the control of individuals that have negative effects on health.”

Published by Elizabeth

A journalist from the South West of England, Elizabeth specialises in writing about politics, health and technology.