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 9: Conclusion

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


In 2001, a reputable scientific journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, published an article with a sensational result: actors who have ever won an Oscar live four years longer than other actors (Redelmeier and Singh, 2001). The article built on many observations structured such that winners were compared with other actors of the same gender, age and who had acted in the same movie. The result was statistically significant, and the positive effect on longevity of four years was large. Besides Oscar glory, living for four more years because of an elevation in status is not a bad reward. This finding was quickly acknowledged and offered as an example of how our tendency to compare ourselves with others affects our well-being. There is only one problem: the result later turned out to be flawed. The researchers had made the relatively simple methodological error of comparing the longevity of Oscar winners without considering the fact that these actors were relatively old when they were honoured and were therefore even more likely to reach an older age. A statistician would say that life expectancy for someone who is alive, for example, at age 60 is higher than their life expectancy at birth. This methodological mistake gave the Oscar winners an unfair advantage in the comparison, and when other researchers accounted for this age effect, the positive effect of status on health disappeared. Despite the invalidation of this finding, it remains a common reference, particularly in media but also in scientific work.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information