How Are Income and Wealth Linked to Health and Longevity?

How Are Income and Wealth Linked to Health and Longevity?

The Gradient between Economic Wellbeing and Health

The greater one’s income, the lower one’s likelihood of disease and premature death. Studies show that Americans at all income levels are less healthy than those with incomes higher than their own.

Not only is income (the earnings and other money acquired each year) associated with better health, but wealth (net worth and assets) affects health as well.

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.

People with Lower Incomes Report Poorer Health and Have a Higher Risk of Disease

Poor adults are almost five times as likely to report being in fair or poor health as adults with family incomes at or above 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or FPL, and they are more than three times as likely to have activity limitations due to chronic illness. Low-income American adults also have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders than wealthier Americans.

People with Lower Incomes Live Shorter Lives

At age 25, Americans in the highest income group can expect to live more than six years longer than their poor counterparts. The Social Security Administration reports that retirees at age 65 are living longer, but since the 1970s those with earnings in the top half of the income distribution have seen their life expectancy increase by more (6.0 years) than those in the bottom half (1.3 years).