Book update: Health inequality
An important addition to our understanding of the evidence for and causes of health inequality is provided by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book “The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone” (2009, updated 2010). It is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
Details may be found at The Equality Trust including the background research data, several on-line lectures and a set of PowerPoint slides.
The authors analyse inequality in the top 20 most affluent societies in relation to health and social well-being. A substantial body of data from the USA is included.The extreme position of the USA serves to test and reinforce the trends depicted.
The major differences in health and well-being between rich countries is not a function of absolute wealth. Instead, it is a function of the degree of inequality in each society. In these countries poverty does not explain the overall differences. The well-being of poorer people is worse than the wealthier people but all socio-economic groups benefit in more egalitarian societies.
The causal relationship is discussed. The most important factors appear to be anxiety and stress generated by social comparisons and self-esteem.