A new study from the Urban Institute found that when people were divided into five income groups, each income group was sicker than the one above it and healthier than the one below it. The results were consistent in almost every category of ailment. Categories included heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and strokes.
The Centers for Disease Control found that higher income correlates with a longer life expectancy. The study worked with 500+ Harvard students and inner-city Boston men. The subjects were followed throughout the 20th century, making it the longest-running longitudinal study of health. The Harvard students lived an average of 10 years longer than the inner-city men. Roughly 30 percent of the Harvard students lived to 90, compared to the 3 to 5 percent averaged by the country as a whole. The connection between being rich and living longer is so widely accepted that researchers now call it “the wealth gradient in mortality.”
Higher incomes are associated with better health insurance. Having better insurance means you may get tested for health conditions earlier and be better able to follow complicated treatments. Better insurance also means a lower risk of catastrophic illnesses wiping out their wealth with expensive medical bills. Those with higher incomes are also more likely to follow doctors’ directions when it comes to taking pills or other instructions. Those with lower incomes are more likely to cut pills in half to make them last longer.
According to an analysis by Carol Graham of the Brookings Institute, the poor are far more likely to be stressed, worried, sad, and/or angry than the rich. Rich people live longer because they tend to drink less, smoke less, and are less likely to be obese. Factors like these generally increase with higher stress levels and contribute to longevity. A CDC study released in Fall 2015 also found that a higher income leads to less sleep deprivation, another factor that can affect health outcomes.