Social Inequality: A Blind Spot for Health Reporters
Researchers in sociology and public health have developed a fair amount of evidence that social status (typically measured by income or education) may be the most significant shaper of health, disability and lifespan at the population level. In the picture that is emerging, social status acts through a complicated chain of cause-and-effect.
Education equips people with knowledge and skills to adopt healthy behaviors. It improves the chances of securing a job with healthy working conditions, higher wages, and being able to afford housing in a neighborhood secure from violence and pollution. The job security and higher income that tend to come with more education provide a buffer from chronic stress – a corrosive force that undermines health among lesser educated, lower income people.
Research consistently shows that more education gives people a greater sense of personal control. Positive beliefs about personal control have a profound impact on how people approach life, make decisions about risky behavior, and cope with illness.
YES! I want to read more health journalism that talks about the social determinants of health and less “eat your vegetables” journalism.