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Wealth: A Key to Health

Money is no cure-all, but wealth is a key to health, a new UK study suggests.

The research, led by James Nazroo at University of Manchester, found several indicators that money actually buys better health:

  • Those from lower socio-economic groups, on average, die earlier than their wealthier counterparts.
  • Those from lower socio-economic classes, and those with less education and wealth, are more likely to suffer from both self-reported illnesses such as, depression, and also from long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
  • The inequalities in health and life expectancy arising from socioeconomic inequalities persist into the oldest ages, although they are larger for those aged in their 50s and 60s.
  • Early retirement is generally good for people’s health and well-being unless it has been forced on them (and this is usually because of redundancy or poor health).
  • Those forced into early retirement generally have poorer mental health than those who take routine retirement, who in turn have poorer mental health that those who have taken a voluntary early retirement.
  • Older people who participate in non-work activities, such as volunteering or caring for others, have better mental health and well-being, but only if they feel appreciated and rewarded for their contribution.

"These findings have important implications for us all." Nazroo said in a statement this week. "Increases in life expectancy raise major challenges for public policy. Among these is the need to respond to marked inequalities in economic position and life expectancy at older ages. In addition, despite the fact that we are all living longer, many people now stop work before the statutory retirement age and a large proportion of these still have the potential to provide a positive input into society, the economy and their own well-being. Our findings will help us understand how society can help people realize this potential."

The study was based on a detailed analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) using date collected between 2002 and 2007. The Economic and Social Research Council and the Institute for Fiscal Studies contributed to the work.

Related research

In a study last year, researchers found that higher wealth is linked with a lower risk of stroke in Americans between the ages of 50 and 64. Oddly, however, the connection doesn't hold up in those over age 65. The findings were reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Wealth increases access to medical care and other material and psychosocial resources," said Mauricio Avendano, Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and a researcher in the stroke study.

A U.S. study done in 2005 followed 478 Americans over nine years, before and after they became disabled, and found that wealth generally allowed "substantially better well-being, and less sadness and loneliness."

And a 2003 Ohio State University study found that health brings wealth. Healthy people are 6 to 7 percent more likely not to lose a significant portion of their savings as they age, the study showed.

Live Science Staff
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