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Socioeconomic inequalities in health are essentially universal; poorer health is more common in the disadvantaged. The inverse relationship between socioeconomic status or position and health is one of the most consistent epidemiological findings. This briefing paper presents and reviews the evidence regarding the impact of socioeconomic status on health and discusses the impact of socioeconomic status on health from birth to adulthood, on coronary heart disease and on cognitive functioning and ability. The review also considers the emerging fields of research which are assessing the influence of an individual personality on risk of disease and possible future health outcomes and the impact of accelerated biological ageing on stress and elevated disease risk.