Health inequality has flourished across America over the last two decades, according to new research published by JAMA Network Open.
Researchers Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., and Nathaniel W. Anderson, BA, of the Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California in Los Angeles, used data from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1993 to 2017 to examine incomes, healthy days (the average health healthy days during the prior 30 days) and health justice (a measure of the relationship between health along with income, race/and sex) of 5.45 million people (mean age, 44.5 years; women, 58.3%; non-Latino white, 76.3%).
Zimmerman wrote that the health gap between African Americans and white Americans improved over the last 25-years but warned health in the general population deteriorated. Health justice also declined. And the health gap between the rich and poor jumped.
"The results of this study show a worrisome lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the United States," the authors wrote.
Income inequality is driving unfavorable health outcomes, according to Zimmerman. He added that health differences between the highest income group and lowest income group increased "really quite dramatically."
"The analysis here hints that increasing income disparities may be associated with stagnant health equity," researchers wrote. "If this is, in fact, the case, policies that reduce the prevalence and penalties associated with poverty would be a clear starting point to improving health equity."
Lisa Cooper, a professor in health equity at Johns Hopkins University, described the study as "frustrating, but honestly not surprising."
Eileen Moore, a physician and associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University's School of Medicine and medical director of Georgetown University's Health Justice Alliance, said: "This study demonstrates a stunning lack of progress at the macro level."
Vicki Girard, a professor of law at Georgetown and co-director of Georgetown University's Health Justice Alliance, said the more than five million people examined makes this study significant. She said the results should be a "call to action" for lawmakers to address the inequalities that are crushing the bottom 90% of Americans.
And for a little context on income inequality, we covered a report last summer that specified the top 1% of American families took home approximately 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99% in 2015.
The root cause of income inequality has been the product of extreme monetary policies from central banks, fueling asset price bubbles that only enrich those who hold assets. With homeownership at 1960s levels, and more than half of Americans don't own stocks, this research suggests that failed policies have led to the implosion of the middle class.