Income and life expectancy

Here’s another interesting post from pediatrician and med school professor Aaron Carroll describing recent research published in JAMA involving a huge sample of Americans — almost everybody middle aged and older — based on data from the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. The results aren’t entirely surprising, but they are disturbing.

Link to video: There’s more information on the subject at this link.

(Incidentally, some will no doubt worry that the research described involved an inherent invasion of privacy, but nowadays this sort of epidemiology requires supervision by an ethics committee to ensure that researchers look only at aggregate statistical data, not information to specific to individuals. In contrast, private businesses collect and sell vastly more detailed information that is specific to individuals, such as what websites you visit and products you buy in stores and on line, and there’s almost no restriction on the use of such data in the U.S.)

Life expectancy at 40 is a useful measure in this sort of analysis because life expectancy at birth rose during the 20th century largely as a result of a sharp decline in infant and childhood mortality (which had previously skewed the average greatly downward), and that mainly as a consequence of vaccines and improved sanitation.

While Carroll doesn’t go into it, life expectancy is actually declining in the U.S. for one demographic group: low-income, less-educated white people, particularly in rural areas. This appears to be at least partly as a result of tobacco and drug use and of suicide. It’s interesting that this latests study shows that areas with higher life expectancy for working people tend to have larger numbers of immigrants and more government services.

I’ve posted a few other things on this general topic:

  • A 2015 video from Aaron Carroll on U.S. life expectancy at birth.
  • A 2012 post about a sharp drop in life expectancy for less-educated white women (and men as well, but to a smaller degree.
  • A update from December on the previous result.

(Finally, to save your having to point it out, “its” is misspelled with an apostrophe in the thumbnail image of the video, the fixed picture you see before you starting playing it, though it might be corrected by the time you read this.)

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Income and life expectancy — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: What’s going on with U.S. life expectancy? | D Gary Grady

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