Wealth and health: what are the links?

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A new report on the impact of wealth on health by Understanding Society’s Deputy Director, Professor Michaela Benzeval has been published this week.

How Does Money Influence Health, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of their major research programme into poverty in the UK, examines the theories in 272 separate research studies which explore the link between poverty and poor health.

Professor Benzeval and colleagues identified four main ways money affects people’s wellbeing:

  • Material: Money buys goods and services that improve health. The more money families have, the better the goods they can buy.
  • Psychosocial: Managing on a low income is stressful. Comparing oneself to others and feeling at the bottom of the social ladder can be distressing, which can lead to biochemical changes in the body, eventually causing ill health.
  • Behavioural: For various reasons, people on low incomes are more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours – smoking and drinking, for example – while those on higher incomes are more able to afford healthier lifestyles.
  • Reverse causation (poor health leads to low income): Health may affect income by preventing people from taking paid employment. Childhood health may also affect educational outcomes, limiting job opportunities and potential earnings.

this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website