It’s said that money can’t buy happiness, but research has shown that wealth is strongly correlated with a long and healthy life.
That’s according to a new report from the Urban Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University, which analyzed links between wealth, income and health.
Researchers found that when dividing Americans into five income groups, each group is sicker than the income group above it and healthier than the one below it. The study said:
Though it is easy to imagine how health is tied to income for the very poor or the very rich, the relationship between income and health is a gradient: they are connected step-wise at every level of the economic ladder. Middle-class Americans are healthier than those living in or near poverty, but they are less healthy than the upper class. Even wealthy Americans are less healthy than those Americans with higher incomes.
The health differences between economic classes are startling: While 23 percent of Americans who earn less than $35,000 each year reported having fair to poor health, just 5.6 percent of people who make more than $100,000 annually said the same.
The study also found that life expectancy declined with income. So the poorer you are, the shorter your life.
The link between income, wealth and health is not that surprising, once you consider that wealthy Americans are typically insured and able to cover medical expenses. They also tend to exercise and eat healthier foods. Bloomberg paints a much different picture of their poorer counterparts:
Living in poverty often means less access to nutritious food or neighborhoods safe for outdoor exercise. Low-income people are more likely to smoke or be obese. White-collar jobs are less physically demanding, and people who have them can afford to take a day off for a doctors’ visit or to get a gym membership.
“Improving the economic conditions of Americans at many income levels — from those who are poor to those in the middle class — could improve health and help control the rising costs of health care,” the report noted. “Jobs, education, and other drivers of economic prosperity matter to public health.”
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