Are the wealthy also healthier?

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Reckon old Scrooge McDuck is still alive and kicking? According to new research, highly likely. A recent global study has revealed that wealthy people tend to live longer and, on average, enjoy eight to nine healthier years compared to those who have less money. The findings published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A were drawn from the question regarding the role socioeconomic factors play in how long people live healthy lives. (Spoiler alert: It’s a big one.) 

To find an answer, researchers from several countries, including England and America, analysed the data of over 25 000 people over the age of 50. They looked at how various factors like education, social class and economic status predicted how long a person would live free of health conditions that impaired quality of life. The parameters where pretty simple. How long could someone live before daily activities like getting out of bed or cooking for themselves became too difficult? Of all the factors they considered, the one that had the biggest effect was wealth.

Rich dad, healthier dad

Researchers didn’t have to dig too deep to figure out why having more money  meant better health. Their conclusion was that access to funds means access to healthcare. “More wealth means it’s easier to get to your appointments and access additional services that would not be available to people with less,” said Dr Corinna Loeckenhoff, when interviewed about the study by The New York Times. 

Loeckenhoff, a supervisor of the Healthy Aging Laboratory at Cornell University in New York, also noted that poverty has been linked to higher stress levels, something that also has a big effect on our wellbeing. After all, many health conditions including cardiovascular diseases – the number one cause of death globally – have been linked to chronic stress.

The poverty stress connection

While nobody’s immune to feeling the pressures of daily life, it’s much easier to manage your stress levels when you can afford a good psychologist, a masseuse with magic hands or a relaxing weekend retreat. Also, not having to worry about money itself is a giant relief. 

Data from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that money sits at the top of the list of things stressing out those living in the States. “Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007. Furthermore, this year’s survey shows that stress related to financial issues could have a significant impact on Americans’ health and well-being,” says APA CEO Norman B. Anderson.

A report by financial education and servicing company Salary Finance – which surveyed 10,484 US employees – found that “money and finances are the leading cause of stress for 48% of American workers in general.

In addition, a 2017 poll commissioned by US financial protection benefits provider Unum found that “45% of men were stressed about their finances,” as reported in Business Wire.

While financial stress affects all genders, research conducted by Yolt Technology Services “found that nearly 2.3 million men in

the UK have had panic attacks as a direct result of financial worries”. Moreover, “14% struggle to sleep for worry over money… and 12% said they ignored their financial concerns as it caused them to feel anxious or depressed,” as noted in UK Tech News. 

The good news

If you’re living on the financial edge and concerned about how it may affect your health, know that all is not lost. Experts widely consider exercise, good nutrition, relaxation and sleep as the four pillars of good health, including Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author of The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep to a Longer, Healthier life (Penguin Life). “We are used to the idea that certain lifestyles are bad for us. Perhaps a less familiar idea is that our lifestyles can actually be medicine”, he says. 

Better yet, much of his lifestyle-improving advice isn’t going to hurt your wallet. For example, joining a gym might be out of your budget, but walking more than 10 000 steps a day is not. Getting used to enjoying your coffee without three sugars doesn’t come at a price. Neither does keeping a gratitude journal. Ultimately, the rich might have easier access to health care and experience a different type of stress, but making healthier choices doesn’t always have to depend on your bank balance.



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Source: ASIC HealthLogix

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