The Impact of Inequality

How to Make Sick Societies Healthier

A groundbreaking inquiry into the relationship between societies’ inequality and their citizens’ happiness and well-being

“This new book, a wonderful work of synthesis, brings insight into how conditions of society impact on people’s daily lives to cause health and disease. . . . It is a stimulating and exciting book.” —Sir Michael Marmot, author of The Status Syndrome

Comparing the United States with other market democracies and one state with another, this book offers irrefutable evidence that unequal societies create poor health, more social conflict, and more violence. Richard Wilkinson, a pioneering social scientist, addresses the growing feeling—so common in the United States—that modern societies, despite their material success, are social failures. The Impact of Inequality explains why inequality has such devastating effects on the quality and length of our lives.

Wilkinson shows that inequality leads to stress, stress creates sickness on the individual and mass level, and overall society suffers widespread unhappiness and high levels of violence, depression, and mistrust across the social spectrum. The evidence he presents is incontrovertible: social and political equality are essential to improve life for everyone. Wilkinson argues that even small reductions in inequality can make an important difference—for, as this book explains, social relations are always built on material foundations.



“We need to be told what we know, instinctively, about what makes a good society. Wilkinson’s book tells us, and shows us that our social instincts have become a science.”
“The book blisters with research. . . This is a book that puts the numbers to a psychological truth: inequality is the real enemy.”
—Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
“A powerful and provocative piece of scholarship . . . presents a challenge to us all to improve popular health by tackling economic and social inequalities.”
—Lisa Berkman, Harvard School of Public Health

Books by Richard Wilkinson

The Society and Population Health Reader: Volume I
Income Inequality and Health

Ichiro Kawachi, Bruce P. Kennedy, Richard Wilkinson