"The lower in hierarchy you are, the less likely it is that you will have full control over your life and opportunities for full social participation," says Michael Marmot in the book. "Autonomy and social participation are so important for health that their lack lead to deterioration in health."
"Status Syndrome" is based on more than three decades of research by Michael Marmot that began with the Whitehall Studies in the 1970s. These showed that even among white-collar employees with steady jobs there is a clear social gradient in health. Marmot's subsequent work took him round the world as he puzzled out the relationship between health and social circumstances. From the US to Russia, from the Mediterranean to Australia, from Southern India to Japan, similar patterns emerged.
In addition, class systems are not just at play in England – they are just as bad, if not worse in Australia, America and other so-called classless societies. Studies in Sweden have shown that men with a doctorate had 50 per cent lower mortality than men who had tertiary education. In the US those in the poorest households have nearly four times the risk of death of those in the richest. In the UK, office workers are more likely to die of coronary heart disease the lower down the hierarchy they go.
Some of the key questions raised within "Status Syndrome" include:
Michael Marmot answers these questions and more in an agenda-setting book with huge implications for social and health-care policy and the worlds of education and finance.