This study from China makes use of the large economic variation between regions of the country and economic growth over much of the past century to investigate correlations between wealth and longevity. Their results favor the present view of natural variations in aging and longevity as being much more determined by lifestyle choices and environmental circumstances such as access to medical technologies until reaching later old age, whereupon the role of genetics becomes an increasingly important determinant:
We show the variation of longevity indicators in China during the past 60 years and its correlation patterns with per capita GDP (GDPpc) both at provincial and inner-provincial level. Population data from six national population censuses in China (1953-2010) at provincial level and in several typical provinces in 2010 at county-level were selected. Four main longevity indicators were calculated.
The results show that Guangxi and Hainan Provinces maintain relatively high long-lived population (population over the age of 90) across various population censuses. The distributions of the population over the age of 80 and life expectancy are significantly affected by both contemporaneous and historical GDPpc at provincial level. However, areas of high long-lived population (over the age of 90) exhibit continuously stable features that lack any significant correlation with GDPpc both at provincial and inner-provincial level.
Our results indicate a mixed distribution pattern of several longevity indexes and different relation to GDPpc, that is, economic conditions may have limited influence on human longevity, especially for those who live longer than 90 years old. This study suggests that the economic development may favor the local residents to have access to live as old as 80 years old, but it is still difficult for most residents to reach the level of centenarians.