Observations Life and Death

R-E-S-P-E-C-T—find out what it means

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a672 (Published 03 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a672
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath{at}dsl.pipex.com

    What reasons underlie the terrifying increase in killings by some children and young adults in Britain?

    “All I’m asking is for a little respect” sang Otis Redding in 1965 and Aretha Franklin two years later with her magnificent cover version. Respect is crucial to human dignity and is central to both the understanding and the mitigation of health inequalities. In the UK at the beginning of the 21st century, the prefix from disrespect has become a powerfully insulting verb. Children and young adults, born into families and homes that are offered scant regard by the rest of society, are killing others at a terrible rate and often in revenge for a perceived lack of respect. The activity of dissing has come to encapsulate the marginalisation of young people deprived of richer opportunity.

    The evidence that poverty undermines health is now overwhelming, and the task for every member of any society worthy of the name is to transform that knowledge into some form of redress. Each of the dimensions of poverty—low income, inadequate education, unemployment, poor housing, social isolation, and even the carrying of knives—have a common core, which is …

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