Join the One Percent and Live a Decade Longer

By:  John Tozzi

The wealthiest Americans can expect to live at least a decade longer than the poorest—and that gap, as with income inequality, is growing ever wider.

New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows top earning Americans gained 2 to 3 years of life expectancy between 2001 and 2014, while those at the bottom gained little or nothing. Plenty of research has already shown that health and wealth are intertwined, and that they generally improve in tandem as you move up the income scale. But this year, the vanishing middle class and wildly divergent incomes among Americans have been central issues in a vitriolic race for the White House. Today's JAMA research shows in the starkest terms yet how disparities in wealth are mirrored by life expectancy, and how both are getting worse.

Research last year showed that mortality rates are rising among middle-aged whites, largely due to suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol. That work, by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton, reflected economic stresses on working class whites that have in turn fueled the ascendancy of Republican Donald Trump and his populist message. The latest paper reinforces the idea that inequality in the U.S.—the issue that’s also driven Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign on the Democratic side—has consequences beyond wealth and income.

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