The Margin: The simple secret to living a longer and healthier life: Don’t be poor

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Newsflash: Being wealthy has its benefits.

And it goes well beyond fancy cars and McMansions. In fact, according to a study published by the Journal of Gerontology this week, longer, healthier lives await those who can afford them.

Researchers collected data from thousands of adults aged 50 and over from both the U.S. and U.K. and discovered a huge difference in quality of life during the twilight years, depending on socioeconomic circumstances.

“While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, the quality of life as we get older is also crucial,” lead author and UCL professor Paola Zaninotto said. “By measuring healthy life expectancy we can get an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favorable states of health or without disability.”

As you can see, the wealthiest third of men studied lived an additional 31 “healthy” years starting at age 50. The bottom third lived an additional 22 years, on average. For women, it was another 33 “healthy” years for the rich and 24 for the poor.

Global life expectancy, overall, comes in at 72 years, according to the World Health Organization. That’s up 5.5 years from the turn of the century.

A study last year from a nonpartisan research arm of Congress found more than 75% of the richest Americans who were in their 50s in 1991 were still alive 23 years later. On the flip side, less than half of those in the bottom 20% lived that long.

Inequality of income and wealth is a big issue in the U.S. heading into the 2020 election. A recent Pew Research Center study found 61% of Americans believe there’s “too much” income inequality, while 42% said the federal government should make it a “major priority” to address the problem.

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