Complicating the Correlation Between Wealth and Life Expectancy

In a recent publication, researchers argue that there are flaws in past studies showing that, for the US population, wealth correlates with a sizeable increase in life expectancy. Those studies failed to consider the highly dynamic nature of wealth. Only a fraction of the population maintains a given level of wealth for decades: individual fortunes rise and fall quite rapidly. Taking this into account, the data actually shows that the size of the wealth effect for life expectancy is half of that previously estimated.

This is something of a distraction, however. The only real methodology by which wealth can be used to buy additional years of healthy life is to invest it into the right forms of medical research and development, meaning the establishment of rejuvenation therapies based on the SENS model of damage repair. Unfortunately all too few wealthy individuals have realized that this option is on the table. We can hope that this will change in the years ahead, as the first rejuvenation therapies worthy of the name make their way to the clinic.

New research results challenge previous findings of huge differences in life expectancy between the rich and those at the bottom of the income scale. In real life people donĀ“t necessarily stay poor or stay rich, as assumed in previous research, and economists have now found a way to take this mobility between income-classes into account providing a more realistic way to calculate life expectancy for people from different walks of society. Their results show that in reality the difference between the lifespan of a rich and a poor person is really not that big.

In 2016 a research team showed that high-income people in the US can expect to live 6.5 years longer at age 40 than low-income individuals. The existing method assumes that the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich for the rest of their lives. In reality, however, over a ten-year period half of the poorest people actually move into groups with better incomes and likewise, half of the rich leak down into lower income classes. The mortality of those who move to a different income class is significantly different from those who stay in the same class.

When accounting for income mobility, life expectancy for a 40-year-old man in the upper income groups is 77.6 years compared with 75.2 for a man in poorer groups - a difference of 2.4 years. For women the difference between high and low-income groups is 2.2 years. However, without taking the income mobility into account the life expectancy difference was twice as big - around five years - for both men and women. Using the method, the authors suggest that the difference in the US is three years rather than 6.5.