Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in final edited form as: Socius. 2022 ; 8: . doi:10.1177/23780231221091324.


HHS Public Access Author manuscript


This study examines how state policy contexts may have contributed to unfavorable adult health in recent decades. It merges individual-level data from the 1993–2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (n=2,166,835) with 15 state-level policy domains measured annually on a conservative to liberal continuum. We examined associations between policy domains and health among adults ages 45–64 years and assess how much of the associations is accounted by adults’ socioeconomic, behavioral/lifestyle, and family factors. A more liberal version of the civil rights domain was associated with better health. It was disproportionately important for less-educated adults and women, and its association with adult health was partly accounted by educational attainment, employment, and income. Environment, gun safety, and marijuana policy domains were, to a lesser degree, predictors of health in some model specifications. In sum, health improvements require a greater focus on macro-level factors that shape the conditions in which people live.