April 12, 2016
A new study shows that the life expectancy of the lowest-income American is akin to that of a resident of Pakistan or Sudan. According to a Harvard analysis, income and life expectancy are linked. Even more surprising, the life expectancy of those with low incomes in affluent areas, such as New York or San Francisco, had a dramatic increase as compared to those in the same income bracket in less wealthy areas.
As expected, healthy habits do play a role in these results. Low-income New Yorkers exercise more, smoke and drink less, and tend to have lower rates of obesity as opposed to low-income residents in other cities. Though, if other factors play a role in these results, the specifics remain unknown.
Among men, the life expectancy has a 15-year gap, while it’s only 10 years for women. David Cutler, professor of both Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard T.H. School of Public Health, said:
“It’s not an overwhelming correlation with medical care or insurance coverage… It’s not that the labor market is getting better — it’s not correlated with unemployment, or the expansion or contraction of the labor force, or how socially connected people feel. The only thing it seems to be correlated with is how educated and affluent the area is, so low-income people live longer in New York or San Francisco, and they live shorter in the industrial Midwest.”
He also goes on to state that the paper has two purposes – to present the data, and to “create the data set so that it can be used by policymakers and researchers”. With these goals, it’s likely that this data can prove beneficial towards working to improve health conditions for residents across income levels, especially as disparities between income levels continue to pose a problem.
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