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It’s Official: Inequality Literally Driving Us Crazy

A new report out of the UK documents how top-heavy distributions of income are stressing us out, at levels that are endangering our mental health.

By Sam Pizzigati

Over recent years, epidemiologists — the scientists who study the health of populations — have released a steady flow of research that links our physical health to levels of inequality in the societies where we live. Britain’s top mental health experts have now made [1] that same link. Inequality is apparently rotting our minds as thoroughly as our bodies.

Notes Dr. Andrew McCulloch, the top exec of Britain’s Mental Health Foundation: “We know that the UK has become a much more unequal place in the last few decades and we also know that people’s mental health seems to have worsened at the same time. Now we’re beginning to understand how these two trends might be linked, and how living with inequality can have very real effects on the mind and body.”

The Foundation’s just-released new report, Mental Health, Resilience and Inequalities [2], explores these “very real effects” in rather convincing detail.

“The adverse impact of stress is greater in societies where greater inequalities exist, and where some people feel worse off than others,” the study observes. “For example people at the same level of income will have lower mortality if they are in a more, rather than less, equal position to rest of their community.”

The foundation’s bottom-line conclusion: We need to see “levels of mental distress” more “as a response to inequalities involving relative deprivation across society.”

“Mental health problems result from the society people live in,” the study authors emphasize. “They therefore require social, as well as individual, solutions.”

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much [3], the online weekly on excess and inequality.