Comedian George Burns once said if he knew he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself. This statement, of course, assumes one has the wherewithal to stay healthy and live long.
New research by the Brookings Institute has just been released that rich people live longer than the poor. This is not a newsflash, but what needs to be addressed is why.
We know that factors such as smoking, stress, diet, exercise, education and the environment have a big impact on life expectancy. Until we begin to close the gap economically, however, the health discrepancy between high and low income earners will only broaden.
Income inequality correlates to life expectancy inequality. Research indicates that the chronic stress of being poor impacts people both psychologically and physiologically, affecting their ability to climb out of poverty. It’s a vicious cycle.
MedicalDaily.com reported that "Poverty can leave lasting impressions on a person’s DNA, even after money stops being a factor… Even with the necessary grit and dedication, environmental factors often pose too great an obstacle for families, forcing them to choose between a life of law-abiding suffering or success built on illegal means…”
Some conservative writers have suggested that the poor lack the discipline to take care of themselves properly, blaming social programs for taking away the incentive to work. I don’t agree. Poor people work harder than anybody, which only contributes to their shorter live span.
Being on the lower end of income earners, the poor have to get by on cramped living spaces, exposure to more environmental toxins, and lower quality food. They are more prone to heredity illnesses, and having to work multiple jobs,
"Poverty, research has come to understand, isn’t a choice as much as it is a congenital disease, packed with hormone imbalances and genetic handicaps. The only way out is a helping hand offering treatment," the report concluded.
According to Gary Burtless, one of the study's researchers, law makers need to seriously rethink how Social Security should be reformed. As it stands now, benefits promised after 2030 will not be provided due to funding problems. The fact that people are living longer is catching up to fiscal reality.
The proposal to cut Social Security across the board does not fully address the life expectancy gap. Poor people tend to retire earlier, so their benefits are not as much as their wealthier counterparts. More consideration should be given to those at the economic bottom to compensate for their shorter life spans. Those who earn the least collect the least amount of benefits, and can least afford the cuts.
For further information on the study, visit www.brookingsinstitute.org.