Only the Poor Die Young – Project Syndicate 06-17-13

Salient to Investors:

Johan P. Mackenbach at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam writes:

  • Even in high-income countries and Western Europe’s highly developed welfare states, people lower on the socioeconomic ladder have shorter and less healthy lives than those on higher rungs. Life expectancy at birth often varies by 5-10 years and poorer people spend 10-20 more years suffering from illness or disability than the wealthier.
  • The socioeconomic mortality gap narrowed before the 1950s but has grown substantially since. Even the Nordic countries face significant health disparities, despite their relatively low income inequality.
  • Two possible explanations  are selective upward social mobility and delayed diffusion of behavioral change.
  • During the 20th century, social mobility increased slowly but steadily in all high-income countries, with educational achievement and occupational status depending less on family background and more on cognitive ability and other personal characteristics.
  • People with a higher socioeconomic position tend to adopt new behaviors first, and to abandon more readily behaviors that are found to damage health, such as smoking and high-fat diets.
  • The welfare system was created to combat poverty but has been less effective against diseases of affluence like heart disease and lung cancer.
  • The move in the last few decades away from redistribution is a mistake because the resulting rise in income inequality, weaker social safety nets, and reduced health-care access will aggravate health inequalities in the long run.

Read the full article at  http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/addressing-health-inequalities-with-targeted-welfare-policies-and-programs-by-johan-p–mackenbach

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