Sick of Inequality?

Sick of Inequality?

An Introduction to the Relationship between Inequality and Health

Andreas Bergh, Therese Nilsson and Daniel Waldenström

There is a clear trend in rich countries that despite rising incomes and living standards, the gap between rich and poor is widening. What does this mean for our health? Does increasing income inequality affect outcomes such as obesity, life expectancy and subjective well-being? Are rich and poor groups affected in the same ways? This book reviews the latest research on the relationship between inequality and health. It provides the reader with a pedagogical introduction to the tools and knowledge required to understand and assess the issue. Main conclusions from the literature are then summarized and discussed critically.

Chapter 2: Measuring health

Andreas Bergh, Therese Nilsson and Daniel Waldenström

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public administration and management, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics, sociology and sociological theory


To examine the relationship between income inequality and health, it is necessary to obtain balanced and representative measures of these variables. Identifying such measures may seem difficult, but in fact, the problem is quite the opposite, as numerous measures that mirror both inequality and health are available. The difficulty, therefore, is choosing which of these measures is most suitable for an investigation. In this chapter and the next, we present the most commonly used measures of health and inequality utilized by scholars and discuss their usefulness for capturing the relevant aspects of the concepts they are supposed to capture. We begin with measures of health, which are often divided into objective measures and subjective measures. At times, the review may seem overly focused on details and impenetrable, but there is a purpose to this arrangement, as the selection of measures can have a major impact on the results of a scientific study. Realizing the importance of using appropriate and accurate measures is crucial to interpreting and assessing the existing research. As we show below, the observed relationship between economic inequality and individual health may depend on which health measures are used.

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