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The Complicated Link Between Money and Health

New research has uncovered links between wealth and lifespan. This brings more truth to the iconic catchphrase ‘live long and prosper’ than we ever knew (thanks, Star Trek). The Brookings Institute conducted a study that yielded that the wealthiest 10% of American citizens may live up to 14 years longer than America’s poorest 10%. The study supports that the gap is widening, too. Between those born in 1920 and 1950, life expectancy grew by 0.7 years for the poverty-stricken, and by 8.1 for the wealthy.

Geographical Data Speaks

The data has been around for some time. It suggests that there is a relationship between longevity and wealth. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a new study that offers a more in-depth explanation of this link by using geographical information.

According to reports, the poor don’t have a shorter life expectancy in comparison to the general population. The wealthy display longer lifespans consistently only in some regions fo the country. The New York Times research shows that poor people from regions like Miami, New York, and San Jose live longer. The shortest life expectancies among the poor are in Tulsa, Detroit, and in Las Vegas.

Poor Habits and Lifestyle

The rich’ life expectancy has declined in recent years due to a decline in the habit of smoking. There’s not much of a change in the health risk habits of the poor people. However, research data suggests that people from the economically weaker sections of society are more likely to smoke and drink excessively. A study by the Annual Review of Sociology confirms this finding, too, and this, in turn, reduces their lifespan. Overdose is another concern, as geographical data suggests drug overdoses and substance abuse being high contributors to shorter lifespans on specific regions in the country.

Poor exercise habits are also common among the poor population. Regular moderate exercise potentially increases life expectancy by 4.5 years, according to the National Cancer Institute. The wealthy have the money and perhaps the time to obtain a gym membership, but money is unlikely to be the main contributor to exercise and the lack thereof among poor communities. The conclusion is that the poor have a poor diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits that negatively affect their lifespan.


Research suggests that the wealthier the population, the better their access to education and health. A positive relationship exists between longevity and education. People who attend college or have access to quality education are less likely to smoke, drink, or develop an addiction.

Therefore, it is safe to say that education is an excellent determinant of life expectancy. A study by professor George Valliant of   Harvard Medical School goes on to confirm this claim too.

Health Care

Despite what you may intuitively believe, health care has little to no effect on people’s longevity. In other words, access to quality healthcare made no difference to longevity. The New York Times printed the JAMA study, which reveals a weak link between the money spent on Medicare and the proportion of insured people compared to life expectancy. Therefore it is not as simple to say that the rich can afford better healthcare, and from there to conclude that this is why they are healthier.

The Conclusions

In short, there is certainly a discrepancy between the longevity of the rich and the poor in America. However, finding the contributing causes for this large discrepancy is not as easy as it seems. Ultimately, though, it may simply boil down to the culture of the poor, and their mindset.

The poor can exercise and still eat healthier by growing their vegetables, etc., but of course, this is another topic of discussion. The link between longevity and financial status is a topic that has been researched and studied. However, it is impossible to draw any conclusions from them.

For now, all we know is that yes, the poor do display a shorter lifespan than the wealthy in most areas across America. Wherever you happen to fall in the financial bracket, whether rich or poor or in between, it is certainly best that you look after your health. When you take good care of yourself before you fall ill, you’re likely to have a longer lifespan. As the adage goes, “prevention is better than cure!”

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