Do wealth and inequality associate with health in a small-scale subsistence society?

Adrian V. Jaeggi, Aaron D. Blackwell, Christopher Von Rueden, Benjamin C. Trumble, Jonathan Stieglitz, Angela R. Garcia, Thomas S. Kraft, Bret A. Beheim, Paul L. Hooper, Hillard Kaplan, Michael Gurven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In high-income countries, one’s relative socio-economic position and economic inequality may affect health and well-being, arguably via psychosocial stress. We tested this in a small-scale subsistence society, the Tsimane, by associating relative household wealth (n = 871) and community-level wealth inequality (n = 40, Gini = 0.15-0.53) with a range of psychological variables, stressors, and health outcomes (depressive symptoms [n = 670], social conflicts [n = 401], non-social problems [n = 398], social support [n = 399], cortisol [n = 811], body mass index [n = 9,926], blood pressure [n = 3,195], self-rated health [n = 2523], morbidities [n = 1542]) controlling for community-average wealth, age, sex, household size, community size, and distance to markets. Wealthier people largely had better outcomes while inequality associated with more respiratory disease, a leading cause of mortality. Greater inequality and lower wealth were associated with higher blood pressure. Psychosocial factors did not mediate wealth-health associations. Thus, relative socio-economic position and inequality may affect health across diverse societies, though this is likely exacerbated in high-income countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere59437
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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