The relationship between social status and health has baffled researchers for decades. In the US, its clear that the higher social status you have, the longer you live and the healthier are. But in that case, it's hard to separate the effect of status from the effect of wealth. Researchers studied a small tribe in Bolivian Amazon in an attempt to isolate the effects - the Tsimane people have minimal material wealth, but there is still social status. They found that men with higher social status were still healthier and less stressed. Interestingly the status comparisons that were more the most stressful were between nearby individuals - not between the richest and the poorest, or the weakest and the most powerful. Social inequality is one of the defining issues of our time, its great to see research that is exploring its connection with health outcomes.
As our society debates the effects of wealth inequality, the Tsimane help us understand why we care so deeply about relative social position — and why our health depends on it.