Money and Life Span

(Tags: Leadership, Performance, Equity)

Can the amount of money people have impact one’s longevity?  Recent studies over the past years keep pointing out disparities of life span between people of high and low income and no one seems to have clear answers. Link: Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing, New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise, Feb 12, 2016.

In the 1970’s, a 60 year-old wealthy man would live 1.2 years longer than a similar man with low income.  Fast forward to 2016, research reveals that the difference is now (disturbingly) about 14 years! Over the years, being wealthy increased longevity from 79.1 to 87.2 years.  People with low incomes only live to 73.6 years.  That is a huge difference.

Some hypothesize that smoking has played a key role in the difference as college graduates tend to smoke less.  Women with lower incomes smoke even more than their male counterparts. Obesity and drug abuse are also thought to be factors, but no one has an explanation for the 14 year difference.

So what should our political and academic leaders do about this important issue? First, they will have to figure out what the causes of this are in our country specifically, since these findings are not replicated in Canada or many other countries.  It will be important to solve this mystery.

I believe in a triad of exercise, nutrition, and managed stress. Is it the fact that high income folks can shop at Whole Foods?  Is it that lower income folks were shut out from vital medical care or educational access? It will be interesting to track if the Affordable Care Act will positively impact longevity by increasing access and fostering prevention.

Do people with low incomes exercise less as they age because they have to work long hours with long commutes? Lately, research studies have clarified the importance of weights and cardio exercise in longevity and prevention of dementia.

Education predicts higher income and thus greater longevity. This research will need to become more precise if effective intervention can be designed and achieved.

What do you think is the difference that causes these drastic discrepancies?



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