Michaela Benzeval et al. published in 2014 in The Joseph Rowntree Foundation the report How does money influence health?
The study explores the association between income and health throughout the life course and within families. Researchers reviewed theories from 272 wide-ranging papers, most of which examined the complex interactions between people’s income and their health throughout their lives.
The research identifies four main ways money affects people’s wellbeing:
- Material: Money buys goods and services that improve health. The more money families have, the better the goods they can buy.
- Psychosocial: Managing on a low income is stressful. Comparing oneself to others and feeling at the bottom of the social ladder can be distressing, which can lead to biochemical changes in the body, eventually causing ill health.
- Behavioural: For various reasons, people on low incomes are more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours – smoking and drinking, for example – while those on higher incomes are more able to afford healthier lifestyles.
- Reverse causation (poor health leads to low income): Health may affect income by preventing people from taking paid employment. Childhood health may also affect educational outcomes, limiting job opportunities and potential earnings.
Given this complexity of interconnection between people’s income and health, a broad approach to improving the health of those with limited resources is important.
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photo: Toni Catany