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Your Income Predicts Your Health

There is a saying among health researchers and doctors that says "The size of your wallet is the best predictor of health". In other words, your zip code, income, and family wealth are better predictors of longevity and health than any other measure. A new report in The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) tells us this again. (As if there isn't already abundant evidence!)

The study looked at 4002 workers, aged 50-57 at the beginning and ages 61-69 at the end. They studied a number of variables including employment instability, history of sustained low-wage earning, history of intermittent low-wage earning and people who never experienced low wages. They didn't define what low or high wages were, but I think we can assume that the ridiculous minimum wage of America at $7.25 is low wage. (Of note: the minimum wage has not budged since 2009)

It's no surprise that they found sustained low-wage earning was associated with elevated mortality risk and excess deaths. And they concluded that "improving the financial standing of low-wage workers (eg, minimum wage laws) could improve mortality outcomes.

Access to care varies by economic status. I've written before about food deserts and the rural and inner city areas that have no fresh produce and where people are forced to shop at dollar stores with high sugar and fat processed foods. Poor nutrition, poor education and economic stress cause the biggest health problems in our society; diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Dealing with health issues mean people can't work, which leads to more economic decline...a vicious cycle. Even Covid has hit poor communities worse than Beverly Hills or The Hamptons, with excess deaths.

The upstream drivers of health inequities are:

  • economic instability

  • education and quality

  • health access and quality

  • neighborhood and environment

  • social and community context

We call them "social determinants of health" and they are of critical importance to a healthy society and how long and how well a person lives. Keeping wages low, failing to support education and housing, allowing venture capital and big money to drive healthcare, and relaxing EPA rules for environmental safety are sure ways to drive up healthcare costs and make sure that the United States ranks 11 (where we are now) or worse when measured against other Industrialized Nations.

If you care, vote accordingly.


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