Study: People who are financially worse off live significantly shorter
Obesity is a disease that can have a very negative impact on the health of those affected. Researchers have now found that living in poverty has a greater impact on life expectancy than obesity or high blood pressure. Accordingly, people who are financially less well live on average up to two years less.
Scientists from the Lifepath consortium, which is funded by the European Commission, found in an investigation that poor people live up to two years shorter. The effects of poverty even outweigh the reduction in life expectancy due to obesity. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The Lancet".
Risk factor for premature death is almost as high as that of physical inactivity
Amazingly, social rank and lack of funding have a greater impact on life expectancy than alcohol or obesity, the experts say. The risk factor for premature death from poverty is almost as high as that from physical inactivity, the authors further explain.
What factors can reduce lifespan?
A lower social rank reduces the average lifespan by around 25 months. In comparison, heavy alcohol consumption results in a reduced life expectancy of around six months, the researchers say. Obesity reduced life expectancy by about eight months. Diabetes makes people live about four years shorter and smoking even has a reduced life expectancy of five years. The current study was the first attempt to weigh the health risk of socio-economic status against other modifiable factors, at least in high-income countries, the authors explain.
Politicians must know and take into account the risk factors
Given the enormous impact that socio-economic status has on health, it is vital that governments accept this major risk factor and take it into account in their health policy, explains lead author Silvia Stringhini from the University Hospital of Lausanne.
Socio-economic status needs to be improved
Reducing poverty, improving education, and creating safe home, school, and work environments are central to overcoming the impact of socio-economic deprivation, the researchers explain. In this way, the socio-economic status could be improved in a targeted manner, which would lead to more prosperity and health for many people.
The effects of socio-economic status are underestimated by politicians
Lifepath authors add: Low socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of premature mortality worldwide, but politicians appear to underestimate this risk factor. On the other hand, smoking, drinking and physical inactivity are already the focus of many national and global health measures. Obesity reduced average life expectancy by about eight months. Poverty, on the other hand, leads to a reduction of more than two years. The experts say that social rank could be improved, for example, by government policies on taxes and education.
Doctors analyze data from 1.7 million people
For their investigation, the scientists checked the data from 48 older studies. 1.7 million people from seven countries took part in these. The participating countries included, for example, Australia, Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States. (as)