The relative income hypothesis, that relative income has a direct effect on individual health, has become an important part of the literature on health inequalities. This paper presents a four-quadrant diagram, which shows the effect of income, relative income and aggregation bias on individual and societal health. The model predicts that increased income inequality reduces average health regardless of whether relative income affects individual health. If relative income does have a direct effect then societal health will decrease further.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.