The World Health Organisation (WHO) came up with the most commonly used definition for health, which has not changed for over 60 years. They say that it is ‘’a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’’ (WHO, 1948), therefore meaning there are many more things to consider with health other than just death rates.
Inequality is known as the instance or condition of being unequal (Anon., 2003), therefore saying that inequality is when there are differences and when this is linked with the worldwide financial crisis, ‘it draws great attention to the world of the super-rich and the increases in inequality since 1980, which is returning the country back to a degree of inequality which was last seen around 1929 or maybe even 1913’ (Morrill, 2008). This demonstrates that inequality has been an increasing problem, but should this inequality affect us and affect us in the terms of health disparity?
This is what Wilkinson tries to understand with his theory of income inequality, and thereby hopes to give an explanation to why health differences occur (Rowlingson, 2011). This says that ‘it is not the richest countries that have the greatest health, but it is the most egalitarian societies that are healthier and have a smaller disparity in health’ (Wilkinson, 1996). In this essay the Wilkinson Theory is going to be discussed in depth in order to help explain what psycho-social pathways are and why they affect health on a national level.
A brief history of health inequality is that Edwin Chadwick published his understanding of health inequality in the first report on it called the ‘General report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain’ in 1842, then Seebohm Rowntree looked at the nature of poverty and the cycles of poverty in 1901. Finally a major part of understanding the health inequality history is that the National Health Service (NHS) was founded in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, which allowed a freely available health service for everyone due to taxation (National Health Service, 2013).
However health inequality was first put solidly on the map both with public policy and an academic study with the publication of The Black Report in the UK in 1980 (The Department of Health and Social Security, 1980), this was when the inequality in the UK began to increase the most rapidly. From the 1990s there was a shift in focus towards the social capital and its importance, and this is where the Wilkinson theory comes in.
Nevertheless the Black Report was an accumulation of data on the relationship between ill health and mortality in England and Wales from the 1950-1960. It showed the predictions of death at most ages and these were strongly related to the measure of social and economic position referred to as a ‘social class’. It created links between health and social class that had not previously been visible, in order to look at the differences between the poorer and...