Recent studies have revealed that wealthier Americans live longer than poorer Americans, which falls in line with what is known about the relationship between wealth and expected lifespan in other countries. However, what is surprising is the gulf between the expected lifespans of wealthier Americans and poorer Americans, which has seen a widening between 2001 and 2014. In brief, wealthier Americans boast some of the longest expected lifespans that can be found in countries situated throughout the world, whereas some poorer Americans boast lifespans that are closer to those of people living in much poorer countries than their fellow citizens. Summed up, men who belong to the top 1 percent of income earners live 15 years than men who belong to the lowest 1 percent of income earners, while women had a similar difference of 10 years, which is less but nonetheless significant. Even worse, there are no signs that this trend will change in the near future, meaning that the gulf between the expected lifespans of Americans living in the same country could widen as time passes.
With that said, it is important to note that poorer Americans in some regions saw a bigger impact on their expected lifespans than their counterparts in other regions, which suggests that there are other factors that can exercise significant influence on said factor. For example, poorer residents of Los Angeles and New York City did much better than poorer residents of Tulsa and Detroit, so much so that they had expected lifespans that were close to those of their middle-classed counterparts. As a result, while the income disparity between different economic classes seems like the obvious solution for raising the expected lifespans of poorer Americans, it seems probable that there are other things that can be done to achieve the same effect, though finding out what will work and what will not work is something that will have to be uncovered with further studies looking into those issues in particular.
Why Do Wealthier Americans Live Longer?
There are a number of reasons that wealthier Americans live longer, though establishing the exact causes is much more challenging than it seems because of how health, education, and wealth are inter-connected. For example, someone who is healthier has a much easier time becoming well-educated, both because their excellent health improves their learning capabilities and because their excellent health means a minimization of potential disruptions to their educations. To illustrate the importance of excellent health for attaining a good education, imagine the schooling experience of someone who has to take weeks off at a time in order to recuperate versus the schooling experience of someone who misses lessons no more than once or twice over the course of an entire semester. However, it is important to note that at the same time, a better education tends to be correlated with better health for obvious reasons - in brief, better-educated people tend to know more about protecting and promoting their personal well-being as well as better ways for acquiring said information, which is critical when the fast pace of advancement in medicine and other health-related fields makes it important to keep up with the latest news.
Furthermore, both heath and education share the same two-way causal relationship with wealth, thus making an already complicated situation that much more so. For proof, look at how wealthier people have access to better healthcare and how healthier people are better able to produce wealth as well as how educated people are better able to produce wealth and how wealthier people are better able to secure an excellent education. Of course, none of this means that untangling cause and effect for these relationships is impossible, just that it is much more complicated than the simple one-way relationship that tends to come up for most people when causality is mentioned.
Regardless, one particularly intriguing explanation for the relationship between health, education, and wealth is the idea that healthier, well-educated, and wealthier people tend to be much more forward-thinking than other people. In brief, forward-thinking means the ability to give up rewards in the short run in exchange for greater rewards in the future, which sounds simple enough but can be much more challenging than it seems because the periods of waiting time can often be measured in months and months or even years and years rather than days and days or weeks and weeks. Common examples of this can be seen whenever someone chooses to borrow for the purpose of financing their education, which will hinder their spending for the sake of their personal pleasure in the near term in exchange for more income in the future that can be spent on whatever they please.
However, it should be noted that it is unclear what causes healthier, well-educated, and wealthier people to be more forward-thinking than their counterparts. It is possible that some people are more inclined to be forward-thinking because of nature and nurture, but at the same time, it seems possible that some people prefer to focus on their immediate circumstances rather than their future circumstances because of their lack of expectations for the latter. In other words, it is possible that the lack of forward-thinking is caused by a vicious cycle in which people in bad circumstances believe that they have no future to look forward to, thus making it that much more challenging for them to escape said circumstances. Whatever the case, this too is something that will have to be examined by further studies.
Such studies are interesting for a number of reasons. For example, people who want to live as long as possible might be interested in examining them for as much insight as possible, though it should be noted that changing their behavioral patterns in accordance with what they have learned is much easier said than done. Furthermore, societies have a natural interest in making sure that their members live as long as possible, whether because longer-lived people tend to be happier people or because longer-lived people tend to be more productive people. Whatever the case, the sheer interest in the topic of living as long as possible ensures that more studies will be conducted in the future, which in turn, ensure that more information will be made available about the factors that can influence a person's expected lifespan.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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