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Why do the rich live longer?

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Posted: 1 pm ET

Men in the United Kingdom with the highest net worth live an average of six years longer than those with significantly less money, and that gap has been widening over the past 20 years, according to the results of a survey.

The survey was conducted by research firm Longevity Science Advisory Panel in the U.K., but a similar pattern has shown up in the U.S. One 2008 study, by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, indicated that the rich live longer by an average of nearly two years.

Here in the U.S., the issue has the potential to evolve from a purely medical concern to a political issue because access to health care is cited as a major factor in both studies. Congress has been debating raising the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security, and President Obama's health care reform package continues to come under fire from those who think health care has become harder, not easier, to obtain.

But studies conclude that lifestyle is also a huge factor, citing a higher tendency to smoke and drink, along with higher obesity rates, among lower-income workers versus their wealthier counterparts.

An intriguing article in the Telegraph reports another factor in why the rich live longer: Researchers at University College London report that the rich tend to produce a higher level of a hormone called DHEAS, which is linked to life expectancy.  Those with high levels of this particular hormone also exercise more, have more pastimes and have more friends and family. Perhaps it's also a byproduct of having all that money to enjoy life.

Do you think the rich live longer because they lead healthier lifestyles or have better access to health care?

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February 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm

When was the last time you saw a rich man eating at McDonalds?

February 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I'd doubt that wealthy people use health care services more than everyone else, if they did they'd be charged more for insurance premiums I'd imagine. Instead I'd suspect that health and wealth are both consequences of the same set of beneficial behaviors. For example the kids who score well on the Marshmallow Test are likely to become both financially better off and less prone to unhealthful habits when they grow to adulthood.

February 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm

A strong requirement to being wealthy is being highly educated and disciplined. This coupled with having access to better health resources (better quality and variety of foods, nutritional assistants possibly, etc.)probably carries over into a superior healthy lifestyle resulting in longevity of life. Add in to this equation the fact that if this practice is generational, the benefits are extended.