Does Poverty Affect Life Expectancy?

Does poverty affect life expectancy? The data shows that there is definitely a correlation, and the abundance of evidence points to a causation as well.

Check out this graphic from the Huffington Post:

HuffPost_2013_07_LifeExpectancy

The authors conclude: “Living in a high-poverty area often means a lifetime of struggle with underperforming public schools, limited job opportunities, higher crime rates, and poor nutrition, health care and housing — all of which can add up to a shorter, sicker retirement.”

On a Micro Scale

When one looks at cities, there are large disparities in life expectancy depending on where one lives. And in Mind the Gaps, Sydney Brownstone shows that you can correlate life expectancy with where someone lives in that city (along subway routes). Predictably, those who live in more high-poverty areas tend to die at a younger age.

“The point here is that these big differences in life expectancy aren’t going to be made up by adding a new wing to a hospital,” Woolf says. “The solution involves jobs, education, strengthening our neighborhoods, community development. These aren’t issues we normally think of as close to medicine, but they’re probably more important than what we as doctors could do.”

So, does poverty affect life expectancy? In short, yes. And remember, it’s not just poverty in the sense of a lack of income or wealth. We must look at poverty as a lack of resources and opportunities.

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