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A high level of income inequality in the U.S. at any time increases mortality rates five years later, according to new research from The Ohio Sate University.The study, titled “Do people die from income inequality of a decade ago?,” and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, examined deaths in a particular year while controlling for income inequality in the preceding 21 years.
“The evidence is growing clearer that income inequality has a long-term detrimental impact on individual health and mortality,” said Hui Zheng, author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State, in a press release.
The research included a sample of more than 700,000 people over the age of 30.
The Gini coefficient — which ranges in value from 0 (i.e. complete equality with everyone earning the same income) to 1 (complete inequality with one person earning all income) — has steadily risen in the U.S. from .403 in 1980 to .469 in 2010.
After taking into account other factors that influence mortality such as a person’s age, gender, race, marital status, education, work status and family income, Zheng found that a 0.01 rise in the Gini coefficient increases the cumulative odds of death by 122 per cent in the following 12 years.
The study augments Zheng’s 2009 finding that the dramatic increase in income inequality from 1972 to 2004 negatively affected Americans’ self-rated health by 9.4 per cent.
Zheng said that the 2009 study only examined instantaneous impact of income inequality on self-rated health and would have shown a greater adverse impact if it had accounted for long-term implications.
“This finding is striking and it supports the argument that income inequality is a public health concern,” Zheng said, according to the press release.
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