Health inequalities, rather than representing a secondary or a partial aspect of social inequalities, constitute their most emblematic expression. Making use of the Istat Multiscopo dataset on health conditions (2000), it was possible to describe the main relationships between social conditions and health status in Italy. The study was devoted to reconstruct a "health space" in order to synthesize the health profiles of social clusters identified on the basis of occupational position, educational attainment and economic sector of activity. The results of the analyses suggest that there is a cumulative disadvantage combining the effects of structural socio-economic inequalities related to the scarcity of material resources, the usure du travail and the symbolic resources. It appears that a sort of "cultural contagion" of risky behaviours takes place within socially homogeneous groups.