The health gap: the rich enjoy ten more years of good health compared to the poor

In a nation where a one-day hospital visit can cost tens of thousands of dollars, health insurance is hundreds of dollars a month and a cardiovascular training class runs in the range of $ 40, maybe not It is surprising that the rich are at risk. advantage when it comes to having better health. Previous research has shown that money is important when it comes to living a longer life in the United States, but a new study found that it also affects your quality of life at the end of your life.

The research, published in the Journal of Gerontology, took data from 10,754 and 14,803 adults 50 years of age or older from the English Longitudinal Study on Aging and the US Health and Retirement Study. UU. The objective of the study was to better understand how socioeconomic factors affect a person’s quality of life as they get older. The people of both cohorts were classified into three groups based on the total wealth of the household determined by the sum of the net financial wealth and the net wealth of the home, minus all debts.

The researchers found that the most important socioeconomic factor in predicting when these problems began was how much money the person had. At 50, the richest men could have up to 31 years of a healthier life before experiencing a decline. For those who had less wealth, they could expect only another 22 years of a healthy life. The disparity for rich women was similar. The richest women were expected to have 33 years of good health at 50, compared to the poorest women who could wait only 24 years.

“While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, quality of life as we age is also crucial,” Dr. Paola Zaninotto, lead author of the article and professor at University College London, said in a press. statement. “By measuring healthy life expectancy we can obtain an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favorable states of health or without disability.”

The researchers said they hope this contribution to the growing literature on income inequality and quality of life will motivate policymakers to make health care accessible to all.

“We know that improving both the quality and the number of years people are expected to live has implications for public spending on health, income, long-term care of the elderly and labor participation, and our results suggest that those in charge of formulating policies in England and the United States must make greater efforts to reduce health inequalities, “said Zaninotto. “Our study makes a unique contribution to understanding the levels of inequalities in health expectations between England and the United States, where health care systems are very different.”

Interestingly, in England, medical care is public and universal through the beloved National Health Service (NHS). While in the US In the US, medical care is largely privatized, with the exception of Medicare (for which only the elderly qualify) and Medicaid (for which only the severely destitute qualify).

Of course, lack of access to medical care is not the only reason for the deterioration of health, the researchers say.

“The lack of health insurance among people under 65 not only affects prevention and early diagnosis, but also access to adequate medical intervention when it attacks a serious illness and the ability to pay for other needs, such as adequate housing and food, “the authors noted. Been in the newspaper. “In addition, since access to medical care is not the only explanation for health inequalities, transnational comparisons of health expectations can also help assess strategies adopted in different countries to help reduce health inequalities.” .

According to a recent Gallup survey, Americans often choose to postpone treatment for serious medical conditions due to the anticipated cost.

“A record 25% of Americans say that they or a family member postponed treatment for a serious medical condition in the last year due to cost, compared to 19% the previous year and the highest in the trend of Gallup, “Gallup said in a press. launching. “Another 8% said they or a family member postponed treatment for a less serious condition, which raised the total percentage of homes that delayed care due to costs to 33%, matching the maximum since 2014.”

This is all to say that good health not only affects people, but society in general. In fact, there are social repercussions in the health system of a nation state.

The United States, like many Western liberal democracies, is supposed to exhibit a generational division between older, more conservative and younger liberals. However, research has previously shown that this division has less to do with age and more with medical care (or lack thereof). Since those with a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to get sick and die earlier, they are less likely to be shaping American politics; That is why we have a stereotype of elderly people who lean to the right, since the rich, and therefore more likely to lean to the right, simply live longer.

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