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Income Inequality Affects Quality of Life for All

Closing gap between rich and poor could save 1.5 million lives a year, study suggests

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing the income gap between the richest and poorest people in developed countries could save 1.5 million lives a year, a new study claims.

American and Japanese researchers analyzed data on about 60 million people in 30 developed countries who took part in previous studies and found that those living in areas with a large income inequality gap are more likely to die at a younger age, regardless of their income, socioeconomic status, age and gender.

According to the study authors, from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Yamanashi, although "the results suggest a modest adverse effect of income inequality on health, this impact might be larger if the association was truly causal."

The findings, published online Nov. 11 in BMJ, have important policy implications because "income inequality is an exposure that applies to society as a whole," the researchers noted.

Governments need to reverse "the widening of inequalities that has taken place since the 1970s," Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, from the Universities of York and Nottingham in England, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

"The benefits of greater equality tend to be largest among the poor but seem to extend to almost everyone," the editorialists noted, adding that "a more equal society might improve most people's quality of life."

More information

Find out about wages and employment in the United States from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Nov. 10, 2009
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