ealth strongly linked to health and longevity
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rich outlive poor

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor … and believe me, rich is better.” – Attributed to Sophie Tucker.

Certainly, there’s advantages to being rich – something few people would contest. A wealthy person can simply afford a higher quality of life. Opportunities for travel, wider options for leisure and comfort, fewer worries – or not.

But studies are showing material goods and relative financial security aren’t the only advantages of being rich. Wealthy people seem to live longer than others, especially those at the low end of the economic spectrum.

Differences in wealth – and life expectancy

A team led by Stanford University economics researcher Raj Chetty, Ph.D., analyzed government mortality records as well as over a billion tax records from 1999 to 2014. The study found a startling difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans. When compared to their poorer counterparts, the wealthiest American men and women lived 15 and 10 years longer, respectively.

Chetty’s team also found the life expectancy of rich people was growing as well, by over two years for men and nearly three years for women over 2001 to 2014. The Health Inequality Project reports this represents a gain in lifespan comparable to curing cancer.

It’s a similar result to a 2015 study conducted by the Urban Institute. Researchers in that study divided Americans into five income groups and found every income group was sicker than the one above it – and healthier than the one below it.

Poverty just isn’t healthy

Aside from simply being able to afford a higher standard of health care, there are other reasons why rich Americans outlive their poorer counterparts. According to Brookings Institute analyst Carol Graham, poorer people have much higher levels of stress, worry, anger and even physical pain. Discrimination also seems to have negative physical effects on those discriminated against – a study conducted in New Zealand by the University of Colorado’s Zaneta Thayer, Ph.D., found maternal stress related to discrimination might cause lower birth rates.

Also, the wealthy seem to get more sleep. An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013 found just under two-thirds of people below the federal poverty line reported getting more than six hours of sleep at night during that year. However, three-quarters of people with incomes 400 percent of the poverty level reported getting the same amount of sleep.

In general, the US seems to be less healthy than other developed, wealthy nations. A report released in 2013 by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine found the US ranks last for men and 16th for women in life expectancy when compared to 17 “peer countries,” including Japan, Canada and much of Western Europe.

The report also found Americans seem to have higher rates of disease and injury. The report summary states the country’s lower life expectancy “likely has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions. Without action to reverse current trends, the health of Americans will probably continue to fall behind that of people in other high-income countries.”

Stress, depression and mental health disorders are all serious problems that strongly impact quality of life. Sovereign Health of California offers effective, scientifically-backed treatment that gives patients a new lease on life. Our dual diagnosis approach to care treats both mental disorders and any co-occurring substance abuse problems they have may caused. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at news@sovhealth.com.

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