Most people know that life expectancy varies according to how healthy you are, but a recent study also links life expectancy to where one lives and his or her annual income.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study suggests that among those who come from low-income backgrounds, wide disparities exist in life expectancy depending on where these people live.
“There are some places where the poor are doing quite well, gaining just as much in terms of life span as the rich, but there are other places where they’re actually going in the other direction, where the poor are living shorter lives today than they did in the past,” said Raj Chetty, a professor of economics at Stanford University.
For the study, Chetty and his co-researchers collected over 1.4 billion records from the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. Using this data, they determined that how much money one makes directly relates to level of education and personal satisfaction.
Chetty found vast gaps in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Specifically, “men in the top 1 percent distribution level live about 15 years longer than men in the bottom 1 percent…in the United States,” Chetty said.
This is like saying that American males in the bottom one percent have a life span similar to the average life span in Pakistan or Sudan.
The study qualifies these statistics and indicates that where one lives affects life expectancy, too. For example, cities with wealthier, more educated populations typically have residents with longer life spans. This is even true for low-income individuals within the city.
Chetty says the study has possible implications for programs like Social Security and Medicare. Because poorer individuals do not live as long, this means they are paying for systems from which they do not reap the same benefits as their wealthier counterparts.
The results from this study are clear: many factors contribute to one’s life expectancy. Health, wealth, and place of residency all factor into life span. It will be interesting to see how—if at all—this information will play a part in future discussions around hot-topic government issues, like raising the retirement age, for example.