Wealth Doesn’t Add To Lifespan

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What has been found here is that greater wealth correlates with greater disability free lifespan. This is not the same as saying that greater wealth causes it.

Being wealthy adds nine years to life expectancy, says study

No, it doesn’t.

Being wealthy adds nine years to healthy life expectancy: a life free from disability and pain, according to transatlantic research.

The 10-year study, conducted across the UK and US, looked at all the social and economic factors behind the reasons why people sink into ill-health as they age.

“We found that socio-economic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy were similar across all ages in England and the US but the biggest socio-economic advantage in both countries and across all age groups was wealth,” said Dr Paola Zaninotto, a professor in epidemiology and healthcare at University College London, which led the research.

Published on Tuesday in the Journal of Gerontology, the data from 10,754 UK adults aged 50 and older, and 14,803 US adults over 50, examined how long people can expect to live free from disabilities and to what extent socio-economic factors play a part.

Nope.

Firstly, wealth is positively correlated with income. And we can divine the causality too. People who earn more save more and thus become wealthier. Sure, not everyone, but that’s the way the averages work out. Ill health – for whatever random reason – reduces your earning power and thus your likely end state of wealth.

Entirely willing to believe that the income/wealth thing works the other way too, that higher incomes and greater wealth lead to better health. Also, that the very factors that lead to the greater wealth – foresight, delayed gratification say – also lead to the better health. Smoking, say, is negatively correlated with income.

The paper has actually found something much, much, more interesting. The US is a more unequal (about 40 or 50 basis points on the Gini) country than the UK. And yet they’ve found that the difference in disability free lifespan is the same. Inequality therefore isn’t leading to the difference in disability free lifespan, is it?

Equally, the NHS is socialist health care. The US is rather more capitalist. Yet we’ve the same end result – thus it’s not the health care system either, is it?

Which is rather enjoyable. The paper is actually proving the opposite of what The Guardian is claiming it does. It’s not wealth inequality that causes the health inequality.

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Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

The usual suspects often obfuscate the difference between wealth and income — which makes any study like this hard to take at face value. For income, the causation probably runs in the opposite direction — in general, only healthy people are able to do the hard work which earns them the high income. For wealth — who knows? It would be interesting to compare the healthy life spans of people with inherited wealth with those who don’t inherit wealth. Do those with inherited wealth tend to die young from drug overdoses, fast cars, and private plane crashes? Do people born… Read more »

john77
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john77

Health inequality leads to wealth inequality (in the real world, but not in the Grauniad alternative universe) because you cannot (unless you’re Stephen Hawkings) work effectively when you are too ill to work. This is so obvious that everyone except Grauniad columnists can see it. However you have gone OTT since greater wealth enables one to lead a healthier lifestyle with a healthier diet *if one wants to do so*. It is not just income but wealth – defined as not needing to worry about the cost of buying a rump steak instead of belly pork or even a granary… Read more »

Pcar
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Pcar

Until “defined as not needing” agree, after that it went berserk

Unhealthy seem to prefer pork belly and fatty food to what we term “healthy food”. Since a child I’ve disliked fatty food; parents allowed me to eat Weetabix for dinner

Unhealthy seem to prefer spend now, gambling, drugs etc too. Evidence: where fast-food, gambling, drug sellers open for business.

john77
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john77

I’ve always preferred lean meat but in the Wilson years I learned to cook cheap cuts instead as my employer was private and law-abiding so my real income plummeted. A weetabix diet isn’t healthy albeit replacing custard with Weetabix in a normal diet probably helps.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Seriously? You need wealth to eat “healthily”? There’s zero correlation between diet and health, except at the extreme end of some diets. Believing junk science about food is silly.

john77
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john77

If you knew what you were talking about it would make discussion easier. There is indeed significant non-zero correlation between diet and health which is why the healthnazis try to claim that there is a straight-line linkage and then an automatic causal effect. Lying in response to lies does not help “Tell the truth and shame the Devil”.

If you have never had to pause and think about the cost of food you were either born to wealth or you did not have to live through the Wilson years

Spike
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Spike

Could it be that acting sensibly causes higher income and causes better health, meaning that the two results correlate? Or are we desperate to find societal dysfunction?

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Higher incomes correlate with higher intelligence. Pretty much the end of it.

Andrew Carey
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Andrew Carey

Thank goodness for State and National lotteries which allow us to create a random few wealthy individuals. I can’t wait for the studies to come when the winners start to die off and we can get some data. I suspect they will have lived a tiny bit longer and a little less miserably than if they had never been winners, but the difference will be tiny.