What are health inequalities?
Health inequalities are preventable and unjust differences in health status experienced by certain population groups. People in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to experience chronic ill-health and die earlier than those who are more advantaged. Health inequalities are not only apparent between people of different socio-economic groups – they exist between different genders and different ethnic groups1.
Health inequalities are often observed along a social gradient. This means that the more favourable your social circumstances such as income or education, the better your chance of enjoying good health and a longer life. While there is a significant gap between the wealthy and the poor, the relationship between social circumstances in health is in fact a graded one.
Source of data 'Inequalities in Mortality 1989-1998'
What causes health inequalities?
Sir Michael Marmot, 2010
The causes of health inequality are complex but they do not arise by chance. The social, economic and environmental conditions in which we live strongly influence health. These conditions are known as the social determinants of health, and are largely the results of public policy.
Social Determinants of Health
Cross sectoral work on the social determinants of health
IPH has set out cross sectoral work on the social determinants of health as a key area of action within it's Corporate Plan 2010-2013. Working closely with others, IPH aims to create greater awareness among the health sector, government agencies and the public of the importance of social determinants of health. This is in line with broad public health approach advocated in Northern Ireland's Investing for Health strategy and the Republic of Ireland's Strategy Quality and Fairness.
How can I learn more about health inequalities and social determinants?
- Closing the gap in a generation – Health equity through action on social determinants of health
- Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better
- Tackling Health Inequalities: An All-Ireland approach to Social Determinants
- Fair Society, Healthy Lives: The Marmot Review
- Adelaide statement on health in all policies
- WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health
- European portal for action on health equity
- Public Health Alliance for the island of Ireland
Links to other health inequality pages on the IPH website
- Health inequalities: Global
- Health inequalities: Policy
- Health inequalities on the island – statistics
- IPH action on health inequalities
IPH action areas in health inequalities - developing healthy and sustainable communities
- Fuel poverty and how does it contribute to health inequalities
- IPH action areas in health inequalities - mental health and wellbeing
- IPH action areas in health inequalities - social protection
IPH action areas in health inequalities: education, life skills and employment
- Decent food for all
- Food poverty
IPH action areas in health inequalities: giving every child the best start in life
- Health inequalities and low birth weight
- IPH action in health inequalities - health intelligence
1 No distinction is made between health inequalities and health inequities in this definition. Other sources use the term health inequities to refer to differences that are avoidable and unjust and health inequalities to refer to differences that are not.