For at least 40 years, research evidence has been accumulating that societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor tend to have worse health and higher homicide rates. More recently, this has been contextualised by observations that more unequal societies not only suffer higher rates of poor health and violence, but also of other outcomes which tend to be worse lower down the social ladder – including teenage births, lower maths and literacy scores, obesity and imprisonment. (1)
Health and Wellbeing
When The Spirit Level was launched in 2009 people understandably focused on the unprecedented amount of data and graphs that demonstrated how more equal societies do better. But the book had plenty of vignettes to round out the statistical evidence such as the Bristol parents who, tragically and unapologetically, encouraged their toddlers to fight each other so they could better survive the unequal, dog-eat-dog world they had been born into.
A well-established fact in health research is the steep social gradient present in health outcomes. Not only do the rich have better health outcomes, and live longer, than the poor, they also enjoy better health than those in the middle, who in turn enjoy better health than those at the bottom. In fact, as you move up the income spectrum, health outcomes steadily improve.
There's been plenty of evidence this week to suggest that the UK is suffering from very poor mental health.