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Do wealth and inequality associate with health in a small-scale subsistence society?


Jaeggi, Adrian V; Blackwell, Aaron D; von Rueden, Christopher; Trumble, Benjamin C; Stieglitz, Jonathan; Garcia, Angela R; Kraft, Thomas; Beheim, Bret A; Hooper, Paul L; Kaplan, Hillard; Gurven, Michael D (2021). Do wealth and inequality associate with health in a small-scale subsistence society? eLife, 10:e59437.

Abstract

In high-income countries, one's relative socio-economic position and economic inequality may affect health and well-being, arguably via psychosocial stress. We tested this in a small-scale subsistence society, the Tsimane, by associating relative household wealth (n=871) and community-level wealth inequality (n=40, Gini = 0.15 – 0.53) with a range of psychological variables, stressors, and health outcomes (depressive symptoms [n=670], social conflicts [n=401], non-social problems [n=398], social support [n=399], cortisol [n=811], BMI [n=9926], blood pressure [n=3195], self-rated health [n=2523], morbidities [n=1542]) controlling for community-average wealth, age, sex, household size, community size, and distance to markets. Wealthier people largely had better outcomes while inequality associated with more respiratory disease, a leading cause of mortality. Greater inequality and lower wealth were associated with higher blood pressure. Psychosocial factors didn't mediate wealth-health associations. Thus, relative socio-economic position and inequality may affect health across diverse societies, though this is likely exacerbated in high-income countries.

Abstract

In high-income countries, one's relative socio-economic position and economic inequality may affect health and well-being, arguably via psychosocial stress. We tested this in a small-scale subsistence society, the Tsimane, by associating relative household wealth (n=871) and community-level wealth inequality (n=40, Gini = 0.15 – 0.53) with a range of psychological variables, stressors, and health outcomes (depressive symptoms [n=670], social conflicts [n=401], non-social problems [n=398], social support [n=399], cortisol [n=811], BMI [n=9926], blood pressure [n=3195], self-rated health [n=2523], morbidities [n=1542]) controlling for community-average wealth, age, sex, household size, community size, and distance to markets. Wealthier people largely had better outcomes while inequality associated with more respiratory disease, a leading cause of mortality. Greater inequality and lower wealth were associated with higher blood pressure. Psychosocial factors didn't mediate wealth-health associations. Thus, relative socio-economic position and inequality may affect health across diverse societies, though this is likely exacerbated in high-income countries.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Immunology and Microbiology, General Neuroscience, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:14 May 2021
Deposited On:24 May 2021 10:27
Last Modified:01 Jul 2021 18:12
Publisher:eLife Sciences Publications Ltd.
ISSN:2050-084X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.59437
PubMed ID:33988506
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPBZHP3-133443
  • : Project TitleEgalitarianism among small-scale human societies: Ecological determinants, social mechanisms and social consequences

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