Recently during a lecture, the idea was raised that ‘equality is the best therapy’. I can relate to this at least on an interpersonal level, as I know I feel most at peace when I have no need to compare myself with others, either through downward or upward comparison. However, unlike the lecture, for me, the benefits of equality stem from the psychological impacts of feeling like you belong and are part of a community, as opposed to any perceived necessity of possessing certain resources or attributes. I think this is especially the case in developed countries such as the UK, where arguably basic physiological and safety needs are met in a far greater capacity than in the past, and compared to other less developed countries (Maslow, 1943, 1954; Batholomew, 2015).
In the case of poverty, it’s interesting that more financially equal countries have higher levels of social health (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011). For example, the USA while one of the richest countries in the world also has some of the highest rates and homicide and mental illness. On the other hand, as I have experienced, in poorer but more equal countries like Denmark, crime levels are so low most residents leave their bicycles in the street with no bike lock! This suggests that there is a much greater level of trust within more equal societies. This then suggests that the knock-on effects on communities and interpersonal relationships may have greater significance to social health rankings than the access to wealth or resources in themselves (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011)
This only seems more likely when one considers the poor families living in past Britain, or less developed countries, who would arguably not recognise our definition of poverty today in modern Britain (Bartholomew, 2015). Indeed, it could be argued that if all members of society lived in line with what currently we consider as ‘poor’, there would be no sense of shame, isolation or perhaps deficits in social health problems, as the whole society would be united in any perceived struggle or wealth (Tajfel, 1979). It may be argued that overall well-being may even increase, despite a decrease in wealth, due to the value that belonging to an in-group holds.
Thus, it may be argued that for the UK, addressing equality is of great importance if we are to achieve greater measures of health and well-being among communities. It seems that rather than assuming that the low well-being of the poorest communities is a result of material possessions or resources alone, we ought to examine the deeply personal psychological effects of having much greater or lesser than your neighbour… Whether you are a high-earner and feel great pride over your wealth, or are unemployed and perhaps feel bitter that you are just working to put food on the table… Perhaps we all ought to start to question, whatever we earn, how we can grow in empathy and understanding, how can we lend a hand to our neighbours, and how can we start to bridge the divide and interpersonal barriers created by inequality.
- communities community countries country debate distribution earnings economy equality finance geography great britain Health & Well-Being homeless income interesting labour or conservative labour party limits materialism needs poor poverty psychology reflection relationships review rich social health the spirit level