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Dysfunctional societies: why even small differences in inequality matter

  • Date(s)
    3 July 2007
  • Location
    Policy Network, London

Richard Wilkinson, Professor of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and author of The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, spoke at a special Policy Network seminar on Tuesday 3 July.

In his presentation, entitled Dysfunctional Societies: Why Even Small Differences In Inequality Matter, Wilkinson argued that the level of inequality in a society is crucial in determining a range of a factors, from the overall life expectancy of a population through to levels of violence and teenage birth rates.

According to Wilkinson, inequality affects the quality of social relations in a society, which, in turn, has a powerful influence on stress and health. Therefore, the greater the inequality in a society, the greater the status competition and the more prevalent are all the problems of relative deprivation.

Particularly important are the effects of low social status, poor friendship networks and difficult early childhood experience. These reflect forms of psychosocial insecurity, anxiety and people’s sense of whether they are valued and appreciated. These are major sources of stress and may contribute to pathways which link a variety of social problems to relative deprivation.

Wilkinson’ findings draw on 30 years of research into health inequalities and the social determinants of health, on income inequalities, and the psychosocial influences on population health.

For more information about the event, please contact Elena Jurado on +44 (0)20 7340 2209 or email ejurado@policy-network.net


The event is one in a series of seminars Policy Network is holding as part of an informal working group on globalisation and social justice.

Previous speakers in the series include John Kay, leading economist and author; Dr Waltraud Schelkle, Lecturer in Political Economy at the London School of Economics; Stephany Griffiths-Jones, Professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex; David Held, Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics; and Will Hutton, the Chief Executive of the Work Foundation and author of The Writing On The Wall: Why We Must Embrace China.

The working group will take forward the work of Policy Network’s flagship Globalisation and Social Justice research initiative, and will run until the end of 2007. The group will investigate the global dimension to domestic policy challenges, and will run alongside the programme of international dialogues that Policy Network is hosting this year in Chile, Australia, the United States and Brussels.


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