This is a National Institute for Health Research Career Scientist Award.
This programme of research is designed to test an integrated explanation of the social determinants of population health and health inequalities. One of the key problems in this area has been to understand the importance of the direct effects of material factors on health, compared to the psychosocial effects of social status differentiation. However recently, research on the effects of income inequality on health is providing strong evidence for the damaging effects of greater social differentiation. This research programme will involve testing the primacy of social differentiation versus material factors by studying group density effects – where members of particular groups are healthier when they live in areas with higher concentrations of people like themselves. Another factor to bear in mind from research on health inequalities is that groups who suffer worse health also suffer from a wider set of problems linked to their low social status, such as low educational performance, and a range of behavioural and social problems that increase the risk of poor health. The clustering of ill health and other social problems seems to be confirmed by recent work showing that income inequality is not only associated with worse physical health but also with a broad range of other problems, such as mental illness, teenage births, low education, and obesity. The precursors of many of these problems seem to lie in early childhood. A second set of projects focuses on child development, examining family and neighbourhood social contexts in relation to developmental markers determined before adulthood and international differences in child poverty in relation to developmental precursors of low social mobility and later poor health.