Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Income Inequality and Health

  • Douglas CarrollEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_466-2



Income inequality is usually defined as the proportion of national income and benefit enjoyed by a specified proportion, say 50%, of the least well-off in society. Occasionally, it has been measured using something called the Gini coefficient, which is a statistical measure of dispersal. Applied to national or state income distribution, a Gini coefficient of 0 would reflect total equality, whereas 1 reflects complete inequality. Egalitarian countries such as Japan and Sweden have Gini coefficients ca. 0.25, whereas more unequal countries like the UK and USA have coefficients ca. 0.36 and 0.41, respectively.


That health varies with socioeconomic position in Western societies is now commonplace. Irrespective of how socioeconomic position is measured, by occupational status, income, level of education, or neighborhood deprivation, it shows a consistent negative association with most measures of ill health, all-cause mortality,...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. (2009). The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna C. Whittaker
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK