Is inequality killing us? New report shows that shorter lives and poorer health will ultimately harm the US economy

What do high Gini coefficients and diabetes, regressive taxation and cardiovascular disease, and low minimum wages and respiratory ailments have to do with each other? More than most people—even physicians and economists—may think.

It’s not news that economic inequality in the United States has sharply increased during the last 30 years. It’s also not news that super-sized soft drinks, the easy availability of assault weapons, and the lack of health insurance for 49 million people are tragically cutting many American lives short.

What could be big news is that inequality in the United States may be a factor contributing to Americans’ poorer health, especially compared to Western Europeans, Japanese, Canadians, and Australians. According to a massive new report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” the United States ranks dead last among 17 rich countries in life expectancy and at or near the bottom in nine key health indicators, ranging from infant mortality, obesity, and heart disease to homicides, chronic lung diseases, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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