“Income inequality” has already become a buzz phrase for the campaigns leading up to the 2016 elections. Likely candidates and pundits on both ends of the political spectrum have begun to talk about how fairness, social justice and — even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — the cost of health care insurance are contributing to the large and growing gap between the rich and poor.
But a commentary by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health points out another disturbing impact of income inequality: its effect on people’s health. The article appears in the current online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
It has long been recognized that, even beyond access to high quality health care, people’s income is a key factor in determining how healthy people are. But the commentary provides evidence that the degree of income inequality also can lead to a long list of health issues, including shortened life expectancy and poorer self-reported health status.
Dr. Linda Rosenstock, the report’s senior author, said lower- and sometimes middle-income wage workers often face additional workplace stresses that take a toll on their health — among them, lower pay, lack of paid sick leave, an inability to find full-time work, the need to work double shifts to make ends meet. Those challenges can lead to high levels of stress, exhaustion, cardiovascular disease, lower life expectancy and obesity, and the effects can easily trickle down to impact families and children.