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Surprising Science

Why Equality Is Good for Your Health

As medical research advances, the possibility of using scientific findings to enact smarter, more concretely-attuned policies to better the lives of us all is becoming an imminent possibility. Today’s interview with Kate Pickett, an Epidemiologist at the University of York, provides a brilliant case-in-point. Professor Pickett establishes a link between the measure of equality in a societies and a wide variety of health and social problems, the conclusion: almost every social dysfunction or malady a society must grapple with is compounded in proportion to the scale of its inequality.

This explains why Cuba, for example, though of a much lower GDP than the U.S., boasts a significantly higher life expectancy rate—the country is more equal, with tighter social bonds that eliminate the surprisingly lethal status anxieties afflicting wealthy westerners.

 Pickett’s ability to reference an almost baffling amount of medical research in her argument for the benefits of equality—explaining how the stresses inherent in highly disparate societies actually affect our bodies and psychologies and lead to high rates of obesity, mental illness, violence, and disease—adds a power angle to the long-running debate. As she explains, sooner or later, creating measures to facilitate equality will no longer be a matter of ideology, as more evenly-balanced societies are now proving to be the only form of organization that is capable of achieving sustainability.


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