They cite their own work on the inverse housing law to showresidence in poor

They cite their own work on the inverse housing law

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becomes biological. They cite their own work on the ‘inverse housing law’ to show that residence in poor-quality housing in a region with severe climate is associated with both reduced lung function (Blane et al . 2000) and elevated diastolic and systolic blood pressure (Mitchell et al . 2002). The ‘inverse housing law’, they maintain, particularly affects older people since they (a) often lack the means to renovate their homes against the local climate, and (b) are more vulnerable to air pollution because of age-related respiratory and cardiovascular decline. They close their contribution with an elegant proposition: ‘the past is written into the body while the present shapes behaviour and reactions to life’ (Bartley and Blane 2009: 61). There is merit in each of the mainstream behavioural, material and psychosocial approaches while the concept of the life-course provides an important temporal frame for future research. Others have ventured a more comprehensive or ‘inclusive’ statement. For example, Solar and Irwin (2005) provide a synthesis of studies conducted within this research programme in the form of a model. Their model implies that social and political contexts generate sets of unequal socioeconomic positions, leading to a stratified difference by ‘income levels, education, professional status, gender, race ethnicity and other factors’. Socioeconomic positioning underwrites the structural determinants of health inequalities. Socioeconomic positions translate, via differential exposure and differential vulnerability to factors known to compromise health, into specific or intermediary determinants. Of relevance here are material conditions, like work and housing circumstances; psychosocial conditions, like stressful life events; and behavioural factors, like smoking. A distinctive feature of Solar and Irwin’s (2005) model is its incorporation of the health care system. They draw attention to the active role of the Department of Health in Britain in trying to counter health inequalities through equitable access and public health and cross-department policy initiatives. Towards a sociological theory of health inequalities Approaches or orientations rarely add up to a theory, even if they step tentatively in that direction. Nor is a model the same as a theory: it is an heuristic device, its merits extrinsic rather than intrinsic (Scambler 2007). Coburn’s (2000) critique of Wilkinson’s (1996) ‘relative income hypothesis’ offers a much closer approximation to a sociological theory of health inequalities. Coburn’s objection to Wilkinson’s position stems from: (1) its use of level of income as a starting point; and (2) the priority it then accords to psychosocial pathways (with loss of social cohesion and trust providing the mechanisms linking high rates of income inequality with diminished health and longevity (and many other ‘social evils’; see Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). Wilkinson argues that the common assumption that lack of material resources led directly to the social gradient has proven false; ‘it now looks as if a major part
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