A paper published this year in Social Science & Medicine Journal has concluded that income inequality does indeed have a negative effect on population health and wellbeing; and that narrowing this gap will improve it. The paper suggests ways in which governments need to act to address this growing problem.
“It comes as no surprise to us that this is the conclusion of this paper,” says HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi. “What surprises us is that there was ever any doubt. This will be a strong addition to our body of evidence. We implore governments in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world to address inequality as the key to improving the health and wellbeing of their people.”
The paper’s authors cite world leaders, including the US President, the UK Prime Minister, the Pope and leaders at the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, World Bank and the World Economic Forum; all of whom have described income inequality as one of the most important problems of our time. Several of these leaders have also emphasised its social costs. “Inequality is increasing in most regions of the world, rapidly in most rich countries over the past three decades,” they say.
“The evidence that large income differences have damaging health and social consequences is already far stronger than the evidence supporting policy initiatives in many other areas of social and economic policy, and the message is beginning to reach politicians,” say the authors. “The reason why politicians do not do more is almost certainly a reflection of the undemocratic power of money in politics and the media. Narrowing the gap will require not only redistributive tax policies but also a reduction in income differences before tax. “
The paper, by Professors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson (pictured above), was drawn from a ‘very large’ literature review, including those papers that have previously thrown doubt over the causal link between income inequality and population health. The outcome was a strong body of evidence to support the link, while those few papers that drew different conclusions were found to have been based on studies using inappropriate measures.
Story: Jo Lawrence-King