Yesterday I happened upon a PBS documentary about the undeniable correlation between social/economic status, stress and health. Probably three other people were watching it on a Sunday afternoon (the other 200 million watching sports, of course), but I was slowly and completely absorbed by it. An expensive and well-done entertainment (such as an early Indiana Jones) doesn't engage me much anymore because it is not real -- except for enjoying the actual theater experience with quality seats and sound, wherein the content of the movie is only half of it. I learned this principle in the museum exhibit business -- the real thing is of intrinsic interest and value, whereas your mental interaction with even the best Disneyfied replication is only: "how did they do that?"
Einstein lusted after a unified theory to explain everything in the universe. A noble dedication, and a whole lot more useful/less harmful than the traditional non-scientific dead-end paths of religion and crackhead ideologies. But for the rest of us mortals, any good explanation of how we operate and why would be much more helpful, thank you very much.
I've put a link to the blog The Pragmatist on Just Sayin', hoping you would check out the recent one on the author's insight into using the Myers -Briggs personality profile to understand why 80% of the people are mighty attached to the status quo and won't be educated away from their fear of progress and change. However, an earlier one about our basic animal need for control over our environment relates to the PBS documentary on what the health and survival effects are on people who have that control and those who don't. Subordinate animals with no control (macaque monkeys are the example shown) suffer from constant stress, and MRI scans show this shortens the length and quality of their lives with major diseases -- the same ones humans have. Native Americans and renters in low-income neighborhoods, at the lowest end of control over their lives and destinies, have the highest rates of high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. The reasonable, conventional wisdom is that the poor physical environment, substance abuse and bad nutrition would be the salient causes, but detailed studies of neighborhoods show a much more exact relationship between social status and health problems. Amazingly, the data is the same in societies which have universal health care. The availablity of such care and what look like the obvious causal influences are not really the determinants -- everything I and everyone else thought to be the truth or the reality is not so. We've been looking at things that can be changed (with great effort and expense) to solve the problem. What we're looking at now is something so basic throughout the animal and human world it's hard to think of a way to do anything about it, except on an individual level!
If you lack security in income, are jerked around at your job, see no opportunity to move out or up, are threatened by danger around you, and the best you can do is to be careful and keep your head down, you're living in stress which will inevitably take its toll in health and longevity. If life is good, and you've got choices, resources and the freedom to make plans and decisions and don't have to waste two hours bringing the groceries home on the bus, you even get the bonus of consistently better health.
It's good to be king. Inequality kills.