• Health

How Income Affects U.S. Life Spans

2 minute read

Money may not buy happiness (or love), but it might just buy more time to find it. In the most comprehensive look so far at longevity and income, researchers report in JAMA that people with higher incomes tend to live longer–though there were some interesting nuances that the researchers teased out. Contrary to what some experts predicted, there was no leveling-off point where making more didn’t provide any added years. Overall, people with the top 1% in income lived 10 to 15 years longer than those at the bottom 1%.

At the same time, having a lower income didn’t necessarily lead to the shortest lives–that varied greatly based on where people lived. People making the least but residing in cities like New York and San Francisco, for instance, lived longer than people in cities like Detroit and Tulsa, Okla. Experts suspect that’s because of public-health efforts, such as smoking bans and the removal of unhealthy ingredients like trans fats. Research shows that people with lower incomes in cities with such policies tend to be less obese, smoke less and have better health behaviors than people in cities that didn’t advocate such health-promoting behaviors. The researchers say this data supports the idea that public-health policies can partly offset the effects of inequality.


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