Poverty, relative deprivation and social exclusion have a major impact on health and premature death, and the chances of living in poverty are loaded heavily towards some social groups. Absolute poverty – a lack of the basic material necessities of life – continues to exist, even in the richest countries of Europe. Unemployed people, many ethnic minority groups, guest workers, disabled people, refugees and homeless people are at particular risk. People living on the streets suffer the highest rates of premature death.
Relative poverty means being much poorer than most people in society and is often defined as living on less than 60% of the national median income. It denies people access to decent housing, education, transport and other factors vital to full participation in life. Being excluded from the life of society and treated as less than equal leads to worse health and greater risks of premature death. The stresses of living in poverty are particularly harmful during pregnancy and to babies, children and old people. In some countries, as much as one quarter of the total population – and a higher proportion of children – live in relative poverty.
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