Equality and the Good Life, Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

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Want the Good Life? Your Neighbors Need It, Too

New research shows that, among developed countries, the healthiest and happiest aren’t those with the highest incomes but those with the most equality. Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson discusses why.

* By Brooke Jarvis Yes Magazine *

Outside a cathedral in Moldova, wedding guests walk by a panhandler. Photo by Stelios Lazakis

We live in a world of deep inequality, and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. We in the rich world generally agree that this is a problem we ought to help fix—but that the real beneficiaries will be the billions of people living in poverty. After all, inequality has little impact on the lives of those who find themselves on top of the pile. Right?

Not exactly, says British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson.

For decades, Wilkinson has studied why some societies are healthier than others. He found that what the healthiest societies have in common is not that they have more—more income, more education, or more wealth—but that what they have is more equitably shared.

In fact, it turns out that not only disease, but a whole host of social problems ranging from mental illness to drug use are worse in unequal societies. In his latest book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, co-written with Kate Pickett, Wilkinson details the pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, encouraging excessive consumption.

The good news is that increased equality has the opposite effect: statistics show that communities without large gaps between rich and poor are more resilient and their members live longer, happier lives.

YES! Magazine web editor Brooke Jarvis sat down with Richard Wilkinson to discuss the surprising importance of equality—and the best ways to build it.

Read more at Yes Magazine

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