The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Impact of Inequality

How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, 1st Edition

By Richard G. Wilkinson


356 pages

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pub: 2005-06-09
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In this book, pioneering social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, shows how inequality affects social relations and well-being. In wealthy countries, health is not simply a matter of material circumstances and access to health care; it is also how your relationships and social standing make you feel about life.

Using detailed evidence from rich market democracies, the book addresses people’s experience of inequality and presents a radical theory of the psychosocial impact of class stratification. The book demonstrates how poor health, high rates of violence and low levels of social capital all reflect the stresses of inequality and explains the pervasive sense that, despite material success, our societies are sometimes social failures. What emerges is a new conception of what it means to say that we are social beings and of how the social structure penetrates our personal lives and relationships.


'Richard Wilkinson’s pathbreaking work challenges everyone interested in socioeconomic conditions and health to rethink in a most constructive way. This new book – a wonderful work of synthesis – brings insight into how conditions of society impact on people’s daily lives to cause health and disease. Emphasising the links between equality, cooperation, and personal control, he shows how conditions of society have profound biological effects. It is a stimulating and exciting book.' –Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London

'Wilkinson’s work is a powerful and provocative piece of scholarship. The Impact of Inequality presents a challenge to us all to improve population health by tackling economic and social inequalities.'Lisa Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy, Harvard School of Public Health

'In the affluent world, countless millions of people are obsessed with what they can do to be healthy. Richard Wilkinson is rightly obsessed with what nations, communities, and employers can do to create a healthy social environment. In this brave and well-reasoned book, he combs through the health evidence for clues to the kinds of economic structures and human relationships that are best for us in every sense.'James Lardner, Senior Fellow at Demos, New York, and Director and founder of

'This is a book that puts the numbers to a psychological truth: inequality is the real enemy.'The Guardian

‘Wilkinson’s book is an important blow against Blair’s claim that only poverty, not inequality, matters.’ – Socialist Review

'Richard Wilkinson's latest book tells us what we already know, and that is why we need it.' – Prospect, Issue 114, 2005-09-25

Table of Contents

1. Affluent Societies: Material Success, Social Failure 2. Inequality: More Hostile, Less Sociable Societies 3. Anxieties and Insecurities: The Eyes of Others 4. Health and Inequality: Shorter Stressful Lives 5. Violence and Inequality: Status, Stigma and Respect 6. Cooperation or Conflict: Inequality Names the Game 7. Gender, Race and Inequality: Kicking Down 8. Evolved Social Strategies: Mutuality and Dominance 9. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Economic Democracy

About the Author

Richard Wilkinson is Professor of Social Epidemiology, Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham Medical School, and Visiting Professor at the International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology, University College London. He has been researching the social determinants of health and health inequalities for over 25 years and is the author of the bestselling Unhealthy Societies: The Afflictions of Inequality (Routledge, 1996).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery
MEDICAL / Public Health
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disease & Health Issues