Lay perceptions of health and environmental inequalities and their associations to mental health

Percepções leigas sobre as desigualdades na saúde e no ambiente e suas associações com a saúde mental

Percepciones laicas sobre las desigualdades enla salud y medioambiente y su relación con la salud mental

Maria Luisa Lima Rita Morais About the authors

Abstract

Health inequalities are very well documented in epidemiological research: rich people live longer and have fewer diseases than poor people. Recently, a growing amount of evidence from environmental sciences confirms that poor people are also more exposed to pollution and other environmental threats. However, research in the social sciences has shown a broad lack of awareness about health inequalities. In this paper, based on data collected in Portugal, we will analyze the consciousness of both health and environmental injustices and test one hypothesis for this social blindness. The results show, even more clearly than before, that public opinion tends to see rich and poor people as being equally susceptible to health and environmental events. Furthermore, those who have this equal view of the world present lower levels of depression and anxiety. Following cognitive adaptation theory, this “belief in an equal world” can be interpreted as a protective positive illusion about social justice, particularly relevant in one of the most unequal countries in Europe.

Health Inequalities; Social Inequity; Environment

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