Your income can severely impact your health, even if you live in a highly developed country like the United Kingdom.
Data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics shows that women who live in poor areas of England can expect to live 52.4 years in “good health,” whereas women in wealthier parts of the country can get even 19 years more without serious medical problems. For men, the difference was 18 years.
Writing for The Guardian, researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue that the bad health of those who live in poor regions is a direct result of income inequality:
“The temptation, as always, is to assume that those at the bottom eat poorly, do little exercise, drink a lot and take drugs. In short, it’s their fault. But 94% of people on low incomes don’t take drugs, and people in the richest fifth are actually twice as likely to drink heavily than those in the poorest fifth. Inconvenient as this may be to some, there isn’t some inherent character flaw that only afflicts the poor. As researchers around the world have demonstrated many times, it is the financial gap between rich and poor that is significant, not their lifestyles.”
Some argue that there are other factors. Dan Holden at The New Statesman says that a given area’s culture plays an important role. He says that “economic inequality is not the be-all and end-all of health inequality; where you live matters too.” According to Holden, the “boozy culture” of the northern areas of the country contributes to health inequality.
Regardless of the reasons, the poor regions of the UK fare very poorly in comparison with the rest of the world, with shorter healthy life expectancies than Rwanda or Pakistan.