“How the other half live”: Lay perspectives on health inequalities in an age of austerity

Kayleigh Garthwaite, Clare Bambra

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper examines how people living in two socially contrasting areas of Stockton on Tees, North East England experience, explain, and understand the stark health inequalities in their town. Participants displayed opinions that fluctuated between a variety of converging and contrasting explanations. Three years of ethnographic observation in both areas (2014–2017) generated explanations which initially focused closely on behavioural and individualised factors, whilst 118 qualitative interviews subsequently revealed more nuanced justifications, which prioritised more structural, material and psychosocial influences. Findings indicate that inequalities in healthcare, including access, the importance of judgemental attitudes, and perceived place stigma, would then be offered as explanations for the stark gap in spatial inequalities in the area. Notions of fatalism, linked to (a lack of) choice, control, and fear of the future, were common reasons given for inequalities across all participants. We conclude by arguing for a prioritisation of listening to, and working to understand, the experiences of communities experiencing the brunt of health inequalities; especially important at a time of austerity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date10 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017


  • United Kingdom
  • health inequalities
  • lay perspectives
  • fatalism
  • ethnography
  • austerity
  • behaviour


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