Earth & Conservation

The Life Expectancy Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Growing

Even in an age of unprecedented medical advancements, the disparity is growing

Although researchers have long assumed that wealthy people generally live longer than low income earners, there's new data that suggests this life expectancy gap in the U.S. between groups is growing. Despite living at a time of major medical breakthroughs and technology, poorer people have a significantly shorter life expectancy than those at the top of the income ladder.

The Brookings Institution recently published some data on the subject and certain statistics immediately jump out. For instance, for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between those in the top 10 percent and those in the bottom 10 percent of income earners. For men born in 1950, that disparity grew to 14 years. What can explain this trend? Researchers say it's a mix of factors, such as the quickly growing rate of addiction to prescription medication among poor white communities. They also emphasize the role of smoking cigarettes--the largest cause of preventable death in recent years. While smoking rates among the wealthy have lowered, it continues to be a major cause of death among the poor and less educated.

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