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TED Talk by Richard Wilkinson: “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies”

Today I watched the talk “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies” given by Richard Wilkinson at and I wanted to share it. The presenter speaks of the compelling relationship between the degree of income disparity in a country and the degree of health of the individuals who live there. Over and over again, the findings suggest that the greater the disparity, the poorer will be all the people’s health in that country, including people’s mental health. I was first introduced to this idea as an undergrad and I have never forgotten it.

Applying this in a local way, how many times have we encountered the lack of accessible (high quality) mental health resources for so many people in our communities? Or have we, or our friends or colleagues, or our clients and patients felt uncomfortable in some way related to social position issues? Many times, I have met with young people who spoke of stress, distress, and fear that they will not be able to achieve the level of success–defined in income/economic terms–that their parents have and who feel inadequate or of less worth as a person as a result. I have also heard young adults speak of walking around their university campuses and seeing the incredible disparity there (e.g., students who cannot afford to buy food versus students who have a very generous allowance) — and who then have lots of troubled feelings related to this. All of this creates additional stresses for individuals that can take a toll.

This is also a reminder that there are so many factors that can and do influence people–external and internal, and from the macro levels to the micro. It is also one more reason why we need so much to be gentle with ourselves and gentle with others. There can be so many factors at play, so many things going on.