Did you know?


… that wealth and health are closely connected?

In developed countries, there is a strong correlation between income distribution and average life expectancy. Citizens of nations with relatively equitable income distributions, like Sweden and Norway, live the longest (on average, 80 and 79 years respectively). In nations where income is distributed less equitably, like the United States, citizens do not live as long (on average 77 years). The trend also holds for many other health indictors.

Researchers are not sure why inequitable income distributions have a detrimental impact on population health. Some think that the stress of relative deprivation leads to poorer health; some think a lack of social cohesion is the cause. Others blame political systems, arguing that health outcomes are consistently worse in countries with neo-liberal political economies.

In the last decade, Australia’s political, economic and social environment has changed. We have adopted more neo-liberal policies and our income distribution has become more inequitable. Many also argue that Australia has become a less cohesive society. Given this, it is surprising that Australia’s health outcomes have remained amongst the best in the world – we rank 3rd in the world for life expectancy, equal to Norway. Why Australia’s overall population health has not deteriorated in response to our changing environment (yet) remains an open question.


1 World Bank: World Development Indicators 2004
2 St. Vincent de Paul Society: The reality of income inequality in Australia

Anne-Marie Boxall
PhD Student
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney

Medical Technology

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Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.