From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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There is much debate about the specific causal pathways that link people’s income and health. A new report authored by MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit researchers and others has synthesised the available frameworks that describe pathways between individual and family income and health and found that multiple theories, with interdependent mechanisms, are involved in explaining how income influences health.

How does money influence health?

posted on: Mar 10, 2014

Why do people in poverty tend to have poorer health? A new report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks at hundreds of theories to consider how income influences health. There is a graded association between money and health – increased income equates to better health. But the reasons are debated. Researchers have reviewed theories from 272 wide-ranging papers, most of which examined the complex interactions between people’s income and their health throughout their lives.

This research identifies four main ways money affects people’s wellbeing. Material: income buys goods and services that improve health. Psychosocial: managing on low income is stressful; comparing oneself to others and feeling at the bottom of the social ladder can be distressing. Biological research shows how feelings of stress and distress can lead to chemical changes in the body, which cause damage to the body’s systems and eventually 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 to adopt health 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.

Read complete report: How does money influence health?