In 1939, sociologists Robert Faris and H Warren Dunham published an epidemiological study of mental illness in Chicago. Using admissions data from Cook County psychiatric hospitals, Mental Disorder in Urban Areas demonstrated that schizophrenia was highly associated with the poor, transitory and chaotic neighbourhoods of the inner city. No matter what your race, gender or ethnicity, the more impoverished and unstable your social environment was, the more likely you were to end up in a mental institution. It is disconcerting that, nearly eighty years later, we have studies still grappling with the same issues and coming up with similar findings, yet struggling to articulate an adequate response.
To be fair, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Inner Level, as with its predecessor, the bestselling and influential The Spirit Level (2009), does not address poverty per se, but rather inequality. Whereas The Spirit Level was more exclusively epidemiological, showing that more unequal societies have higher rates of