Wealth Inequality and Its Impact on Health and Social Mobility

In a world where wealth and prosperity are often seen as markers of progress, a recent study sheds light on a disquieting reality – inequalities in wealth, income, access to food, and healthcare have surged, reaching levels reminiscent of the early 20th century. This sobering revelation comes from a comprehensive analysis conducted by the interdisciplinary team composed by Caterina La Porta and Stefano Zapperi of the Center of Complexity & Biosystems of the University of Milan, who have examined the intricate relationships between wealth inequality, social mobility and health among various population segments in Italy and the USA. The study was just published in the international journal J. Phys – Complexity.

The study which draws comparisons from longitudinal surveys in two developed countries, USA and Italy, has uncovered a striking correlation between wealth inequality and the overall well-being of a nation's citizens. “The choice of USA and Italy was motivated by the large di differences in healthcare systems in these two developed countries, since Italy relies on public universal healthcare while the USA mainly of private insurance.” explains Caterina La Porta, professor of general pathology at the department of Environmental Science and Policy. “The USA have a significantly higher GDP than Italy and wealth inequality is also higher. But when we come to health and food security the situation is much better in Italy, where citizens have longer life expectancy and a better health overall”.

“One of the key findings of the study “, adds Stefano Zapperi from the Department of Physics “Aldo Pontremoli”, ”is that wealth mobility becomes considerably slower at the two extremes of the wealth distribution so that households trapped in a state of persistent poverty and lack of wealth face heightened levels of food insecurity and poorer health outcomes than the general population”. The paper shows that health inequalities are closely linked to social and environmental determinants of health. Individuals from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, inadequate housing, food insecurity, and limited access to safe recreational spaces. These conditions contribute to poorer health outcomes, which disproportionately affect marginalized communities and perpetuate overall social and environmental inequality. Hence, various forms of inequality are intricately linked and should be addressed collectively to tackle disparities in wealth, health, and mobility that are growing within developed countries.

Read the paper:
Caterina A M La Porta and Stefano Zapperi 2023 J. Phys. Complex. 4 045004

published on 11/15/2023