24 Jul 2010

Inequality leads to mental illness

I am a relatively new member of Gloucestershire's 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. I recently received their newsletter - no it was a while ago now as i see it says Spring edition on it - anyhow I've sent the letter below to the newsletter as I do not believe we are making the links between mental illness and inequality enough - some countries have 5% mental illness but then you look at the US and rates leap to 20% of the population. Of course inequality is not the whole picture but the research indicates that it has a significant role to play.

In Britain, the Labour government, despite its protestations to the contrary, has only maintained inequality at the level at which it inherited it. They've taken some positive action at the bottom income levels for pensioners and young families, but the damage has all been done at the other end. Peter Mandelson said early in the Labour administration, 'We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich,' and he's been as good as his word. Sadly it looks like the ConDems will make matters worse?

Anyhow see my letter below and more re the Trust (incl how to join) at: www.partnershiptrust.org.uk/

Dear Madam/Sir,

One key aspect of mental health that we are not highlighting enough is that mental illness is much more common in more unequal countries. The evidence shows that in developed countries economic growth has improved our material conditions, and now, in some cases appears to be damaging health.

In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. However Britain has become one of the most unequal societies in Europe. It is not a coincidence that we have some of the highest rates of mental illness. Indeed inequality and mental illness are linked whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

As Wilkinson and Pickett show in their book, 'The Spirit Level', it is not just the poor who suffer from the effects of inequality, but all of us. Indeed in more unequal societies there is also more drug abuse, alcohol abuse, obesity, teenage pregnancies, more consumerism, shorter lives, less well educated children, less patent applications, more crime and more people in prison.

The evidence suggests that if we halved inequality then mental illness would reduce by two thirds, obesity by a half, and imprisonment by 80%. By reducing income inequality, we can improve the health and wellbeing of the whole population. Even richer people are happier in more equal societies!

See more at www.equalitytrust.org.uk

Yours faithfully, Philip Booth

Graph from the Equality Trust here.

1 comment:

R said...

I suppose with more equality, society is geared more fairly to the general population, and people , rich and poor, have more of a stake in society.