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Unhealthy Societies— the Afflictions of Inequality
  1. Richard Evans
  1. General Practitioner, Swansea, UK

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    Richard Wilkinson, London, Routledge, 1996, xi + 255 pages, £17.99 (sc).

    Why read this book? Read it if you are interested–professionally or otherwise– in the current state of society and the effects this has on our health. And in this case read it even if the complexities of epidemiological research, of anthropology, of social psychology, economics, history or politics are not your home-ground: for though the book draws on all these areas it can and should be read from cover to cover.

    Wilkinson's thesis concerns the relationship between relative income and mortality. He shows this relationship to hold very strongly within a given society or social grouping, ie it is the distribution of income rather than its absolute level which seems the more important, particularly so in developed countries. Wilkinson shows early on how relative deprivation becomes a major determinant of health once a society has passed through the so-called “epidemiological transition”–where predominantly infectious causes of death give way to predominantly degenerative causes (cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke etc), and where …

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