Correlations Between Status and Longevity are Due to Other Factors

We humans are complex creatures, and variations in our longevity in any given generation can be shown to correlate with all sorts of societal line items: status, wealth, intelligence, education, happiness, and so forth. But what are the mechanisms that create these correlations? Here is a small piece of research to suggest that status, at least, doesn't seem to have a significant and consistent effect in and of itself - that correlation must be based on other related items, such as wealth or intelligence:

Research has long linked high socioeconomic status with better health and lower mortality. But what's remained unclear is whether this association has more to do with access to resources (education, wealth, career opportunity, etc.) or the glow of high social status relative to others. Scholars call the latter "relative deprivation."

To tease apart these factors, a team of investigators [studied] Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Emmy Award winners, and former Presidents and Vice Presidents, comparing each to nominated losers in the same competition or election. The result: There were no consistent advantages for winners. The association between winning and longevity is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes nonexistent, though the specifics are revealing. Overall, the results suggest that access to resources and opportunity is more important than relative status.

"The relative deprivation theory would predict that losers would consistently be at a disadvantage for health and longevity compared to winners, but this is not what we see." A more likely explanation [is] that the advantages and disadvantages of winning depend on the mix of opportunities and stresses that they bring. "Our findings provide an important correction to an overemphasis on relative deprivation as an explanation of health inequalities. Relative deprivation likely plays some role in health inequalities, but it is not as important as the life circumstances and opportunities that result from one's socioeconomic position."


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