How Does Income Inequality Affect Health?

Income inequality is the uneven distribution of wealth between individuals in a given society. When there is income inequality, it usually means that the rich are far richer than everyone else, and the poor are much poorer than everyone else.

The United States has had one of the highest rates of income inequality among developed countries since 1970. This has led to the richest individuals getting rich faster than ever before. While income inequality has many negative consequences for those who are poor, one of the main effects is on their health. In this article, we’ll look at the relationship between income inequality and health.

two girls playing hand games

The Effects of Income Inequality on Health

Income inequality is rising in many countries around the world—including the United States, Canada, China, and Brazil—and evidence suggests that it’s affecting people’s health in some potentially damaging ways:

  • Studies have found that individuals living in countries with high levels of income inequality have shorter life expectancies than those living in more equal societies because they are more likely to experience chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease at younger ages.
  • Income inequality and poverty are also closely linked, with income inequality affecting the job opportunities available in an area. The availability of jobs influences how much money families make and, therefore, what they can afford. This directly impacts their options for things like healthcare, physical activity, safe housing, and healthy eating, which influence a person’s overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

This is because poverty tends to have a negative effect on access to healthy food options, as low-income families often cannot afford nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, they are more likely to purchase less expensive processed foods high in sugar and fat, which usually don’t provide essential nutrients. 

In addition, lower-income workers may work more hours than their higher-paid counterparts due to financial constraints, which often results in less time spent exercising or participating in other leisure activities such as gardening or playing sports with friends and family members.

  • There is also a connection between income inequality and mental health. According to a recent study, people living in cities with higher levels of income inequality experience worse physical and mental health than people living in cities with lower levels of income inequality. Individuals residing in communities with higher levels of income inequality exhibited poorer overall self-rated health than those living in places with lower levels. They also experienced higher rates of poor mental health (anxiety and depression) and poor physical functioning (a measure used by doctors to determine how well an individual can perform activities such as walking or getting out of bed).

Income inequality affects mental health outcomes through two main pathways: firstly through material deprivation (such as not having access to quality housing) and secondly through social status (like being unemployed).

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta aim to serve the children in our communities, especially by keeping them safe and healthy. One of the ways we do this is through our afterschool programs which provide homework help, fitness activities, workforce development, literacy activities, and more. 

Each of our clubs provides kids with a safe place to play, learn, exercise, and receive nutritious foods. Find out how you can get involved with our organization by signing your child up for a club or afterschool program, making a donation, or volunteering to help our cause today!

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