Health inequalities can be described as the variation in the health status or the ‘health gap’ between the socio-economic classes. Evidence suggests that there is a link between health and

Health inequalities can be described as the variation in the health status or the ‘health gap’ between the socio-economic classes. Evidence suggests that there is a link between health and wealth, where people in the upper socio-economic classes have more chance of avoiding illness and living longer than those in the lower socio-economic classes and as a result, mortality rates are greater for the lower social classes than for the higher social classes (Marmot, 2010, p.16 [online] ; Acheson, 1998 [online]). Mortality rates are a useful indicator when assessing health inequalities because of its sensitivity to social conditions and even though the life expectancy years of individuals have increased, the life expectancy gap between the social classes has continued to exist (Marmot, 2010, p.45 [online]). The contributing factors to this life expectancy gap includes issues such as poor diet, obesity, smoking and higher drug and alcohol consumption (Marmot, 2010, p.37 [online]) and despite the reduction measures previously taken, this ‘health gap’ between the wealthiest and the poorest continues to increase (Triggle, 2010 [online]). Access to health care services have also been reported as uneven (Acheson, 1998 [online]) however, an individual’s health can be adversely affected by more factors than just the availability of healthcare and these other factors include gender, ethnic groups, religion, age, geographical location, residential deprivation, education, occupation and economic conditions (Marmot, 2010, p.39 [online]). Many of these factors can independently affect health however, those in the lower socio-economic classes tend to be disadvantaged by most, if not all, of them and the combination of these factors can lead to a significantly higher health burden for those who are living in poverty (DoH, 2010, p.15). Poverty is when individuals, families and groups do not have the income needed for the minimum standard of living and poverty can be measured as relative or absolute (Alcock, 2006, p.64). Relative poverty is when the income received is less than the average income for the country, where access to goods and services are limited compared to the rest of society and absolute poverty is where the level of income is below the required amount to afford a decent living or be able to sustain human life and as a result, only the bare minimum levels of food, clothing and shelter can be afforded (Alcock, 2006, p.64). Without sufficient money, people are less able to provide themselves and their families with adequate housing, nutrition, clothing and heating. People who live in poverty are also less likely to have the means to travel to specialist clinics and hospitals which may mean that they are less likely to attend appointments or take advantage of health screening opportunities (Kozier, 2008, p.133).

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