Everyone knows that the poor in rich societies are more likely to have shorter, less healthy, lives, to do less well at school and to end up on the wrong side of the law. But The Spirit Level goes further than this, to demonstrate for the first time that a whole range of social problems - from poor health to educational failure, from mental illness to obesity, from drug addition to violence, from teenage births to the weakening of community life - share one overwhelming feature: they are all several times more common in more unequal societies. The evidence that bigger income differences create more problems is conclusive. And rather than affecting just the poor, inequality reduces the quality of life for everyone in less equal.
This groundbreaking work book, based on 30 years research by two of the UK's leading social epidemiologists, provides a powerful and fascinating new perspective on the social failings of rich societies. In light of their findings government policy will need serious rethinking.
Philip Birch, Assistant Editor, on The Spirit Level:
'This is one of the most interesting and important books I have ever read. It is driven by a simple idea: that inequality is the root cause of all societies' ills. It doesn't matter if the average level of income is very low or very high, it is the gap between rich and poor that is important. It is why, when polled, more Indonesians, Vietnamese, Finnish and Japanese will claim to be more happy than Brits and Americans. And it isn't just the poorest in the most unequal societies that suffer but the richest too. In London on the one hand we hear regularly about teenagers from poorer communities stabbing each other, but on the other more and more apparently successful, university educated, richer young people suffer from anxiety, depression and are open to casual drug use than ever before. Violence, crime, low educational achievement, poor health; and status anxiety and the misery of having too much money and too much choice go hand in hand, because of inequality. This is not necessarily a new idea but it is proved here for the first time. The graphs are quite remarkable.'