printer-friendly version

The link between income inequality and premature death



There is new evidence showing the link between income inequality and premature death. “Avertable Deaths Associated with Household Income in Virginia,” shows that more than 24 percent of deaths in Virginia would not have occurred if the entire state had the same mortality rates as the affluent regions. The research confirms what other studies have shown: income affects health status and longevity. But, researchers say, “its magnitude may not be fully appreciated, and our work has sought to put it in perspective.” This study does so by helping pinpoint the toll — in terms of avoidable deaths — that poverty exacts on a community. “Economic and social policy is health policy,” said Steven Woolf, who is lead author. “People tend to think of jobs, wages, and so on, as separate issues from health reform, but our study shows the powerful interconnections.”  

Fair Society, Healthy Lives,” produced by an independent review committee chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot to investigate the most effective strategies for reducing health inequalities in England, reports that inequalities also result in premature death in England. The Marmot Review Committee estimates that the loss due to social determinants, in total, is between 1.3 and 2.5 million extra years of life. According to the report, “there is a social gradient in health – the lower a person’s social position, the worse his or her health.” The commission also notes, “health inequalities result from social inequalities. Action on health inequalities requires action across all the social determinants of health.”

March 2010