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4 November 2022

Health and inequality

Income and health are closely related: the poor tend to be in worse health and live shorter lives than the rich. But what is the causal relationship between health and inequality? Does bad health lead to economic inequality or does income inequality cause bad health? In particular, is the recent run-up in income inequality in some countries responsible for widening socioeconomic disparities in health status?And if so what policies can help to mitigate the impacts of income inequality?

This commentary addresses these questions. It is not intended as an overview of the literature, which is vast. The positive relationship between health and income is taken as a given and the focus is on key pieces of evidence that have a bearing on the central questions. On balance, the evidence shows that bad health causes economic inequality, but whether economic inequality has negative effects on health depends on the policy environment. There is much that governments can do and have done to improve the health of the poor and reduce the relationship between income, income inequality and health.

Cite this as:

Currie, J. (2022), ‘Health and inequality’, IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities,