Health and Inequality

Health and Inequality


HEALTH IS A WAY THAT SOCIAL
INEQUALITY GETS LITERALLY WRITTEN INTO THE BODY. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIMENSIONS
UPON WHICH THERE ARE INEQUALITIES IN HEALTH AND
LIFE EXPECTANCY, FOR EXAMPLE. WE KNOW THAT BLACKS LIVE
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN– DEPENDING ON WHICH GENDER YOU’RE
TALKING ABOUT– FOUR AND SEVEN YEARS SHORTER
LIVES THAN WHITES. WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE LIVING IN
NEW YORK CITY LIVE ABOUT FIVE YEARS LONGER THAN THE
REST OF THE COUNTRY. WE KNOW THAT WOMEN LIVE
LONGER THAN MEN. WE KNOW THAT LEFT HANDERS LIVE
SHORTER LIVES, ON AVERAGE, THEM RIGHT HANDERS. NOW, SOME OF THOSE INEQUALITIES WE CARE ABOUT, RIGHT? WE CARE ABOUT THE RACIAL
INEQUALITY. WE CARE ABOUT EDUCATIONAL OR
CLASS INEQUALITIES IN TERMS OF LIFE EXPECTANCY. BUT WE DON’T REALLY CARE SO
MUCH ABOUT THE FACT THAT– WE DON’T THINK OF IT AS A SOCIAL
PROBLEM THAT WOMEN LIVE LONGER THAN MEN OR THAT
RIGHT HANDERS LIVE LONGER THAN LEFT HANDERS. THAT’S BECAUSE THERE’S NOT
A CORRESPONDING SOCIAL INEQUALITY THAT’S READILY
APPARENT GOING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS THE HEALTH
INEQUALITY. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HEALTH
AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IS COMPLEX, THOUGH. WE HAVE TO THINK OF IT AS GOING
BOTH DIRECTIONS, ARROWS GOING BOTH WAYS. POOR HEALTH LEADS TO DOWNWARD
ECONOMIC MOBILITY. IF YOU MISS WORK, IF YOU DON’T
HAVE THE STAMINA TO WORK YOUR WAY UP THE LADDER, IF YOU HAVE
LONG BOUTS OF UNEMPLOYMENT DUE TO ILLNESS, YOU’RE GOING TO
BE, MORE LIKELY, POOR. IF YOU’RE POOR, IF YOU HAVE A
SERVICE SECTOR JOB THAT DOES NOT PROVIDE YOU HEALTH
INSURANCE, IF YOU’RE CONSTANTLY STRESSED ABOUT MONEY,
IF YOU’RE LIVING IN A POOR NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE THERE’S
ENVIRONMENTAL AND PHYSICAL RISKS AND DANGERS,
YOU’RE GOING TO BE MORE LIKELY TO BE ILL OR INJURED OR DEAD. SO THE ARROWS CLEARLY
GO BOTH WAYS. AND IT’S VERY DIFFICULT, IN
TERMS OF RESEARCH, TO DISENTANGLE THEM. BUT THERE’S CURRENTLY A
LOT OF EXCITING WORK GOING ON THIS REGARD.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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