The spirit level

Posted on November 11, 2010 | Author: Kate Pickett | View 585

We are social epidemiologists; people who usually spend their time trying to understand how social factors affect population health.Our work has focused on different aspects of wellbeing in rich market democracies.Rather than looking at subjective measures, such as happiness, we have looked at objective measures, such as life expectancy, homicide rates, drug abuse, child well-being, levels of trust, involvement in community life, mental illness, teenage birth rates, children’s math and literacy scores, and the proportion of the population in prison.Instead of finding that each society does well on some of these outcomes and badly on others, we found that countries tend to be consistently good or bad performers, across the board.If a country has high life expectancy, it also tends to have stronger community life, a smaller proportion of its population behind bars, better mental health, fewer drug problems and children doing better in school.The differences in the performance of more and less equal countries are very large.Rather than things being just a bit worse in more unequal countries, they are very much worse.More unequal countries have three times the rates of violence, of infant mortality and of mental illness.Their teenage birth rates are six times as high, and rates of imprisonment are eight times higher.

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