Smoking has overtaken financial status in terms of impact on life expectancy

(ORDO NEWS) — As the analysis showed, smokers not only had less money, but also died faster. After age 65, the death rate among those who smoked was more than three times higher than among those who had never smoked.

Smoking was in first place among other 57 economic, behavioral, social and psychological factors affecting life expectancy, a study by scientists from Georgetown and California Universities (USA) showed.

In general, the authors of the study studied how longevity is affected by accumulated money. This question remains debatable: as doctors often assume, wealth increases life expectancy, at the same time, many economists believe that, on the contrary, the level of income depends on health. For example, a serious illness can interfere with financial success, and medical bills hit the pocket.

The researchers reviewed data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which included English-speaking residents of the United States aged 20 to 75: mean age 46.9, 36% were 40 or younger, 3318 (52.5%) – women, 5709 (90.3%) – white.

The analysis began in 1995-1996, then, until the end of spring 2013, the mortality of respondents was monitored. More than seven thousand people completed the telephone survey, 6325 (89%) also filled out questionnaires by mail.

Income was estimated based on the net assets of the respondent and their spouse or partner. Other indicators studied were education level, occupational socioeconomic index, age, gender, race, marital status, chronic illness, and smoking status.

“There was no evidence that wealth inequality is age-related, but we found disproportionate risks for many other measures of socioeconomic status. Therefore, we evaluated the remaining models separately for mortality before and after 65 years of age.

Within these age ranges, there were no disproportionate risks for any of the covariates. Based on two models of mortality under and over 65 years of age, we plotted the probability of survival from 25 to 65 years and from 65 to 85 years, respectively. In the final set, all potential confounding factors were corrected,” the authors write.

By May 31, 2013, 1,000 participants (15.8%) had died. Although the death rate declined as accumulated assets increased, the relationship was non-linear. The first $50,000 lowered the death rate by 22%, while the next $50,000 was already correlated with a 17% decrease, and another 50,000 with a 5%.

“We didn’t see significant differences between the $50,000 to $299,999 groups. However, those who had between $300,000 and $499,000 had a 41% lower death rate than those with only $200,000 to $299,999.

More than $500,000 of wealth did not bring “dividends” in mortality (that is, the differences between the top three categories of rich people, including all those who had at least $300,000, were insignificant),” the scientists said.

As a result, they deduced four groups of financial situation: debts or lack of assets, up to 50 thousand dollars, from 50 thousand to 300 thousand dollars, and also from 300 thousand.

Those with no savings (66%) were 20% less likely to live to age 25-75 than those with at least $300,000 (86%). The researchers also found a 31% difference in the chances of surviving to age 65-85 between those who had no assets (40%) and those who had at least $300,000 (71%).

While wealth clearly mattered, the association of smoking with longevity was stronger than for any measure studied. Thus, the demographic-adjusted mortality rate among smokers after age 65 was more than three times higher than among those who never had this bad habit (up to 65 years – 2.02 times).

“Up to age 65, differences in survival by history of smoking were only slightly larger than differences in income, but at older ages, the difference became much more pronounced.

Thus, the difference in the probability of surviving to 65-85 years between current smokers (probability – 24%) and never smokers (66%) was 42%, while between the poorest and richest categories – 31% (40% versus 71% ),” the researchers said. By the way, respondents who smoked had less money.

The researchers also confirmed that severe illness destroys wealth: hospitalizations during the last year correlated with increased mortality, and expensive hospitalizations negatively affected the well-being of the respondent.

In addition, the relationship between financial position and life expectancy could be explained by other factors: married people tended to be richer and had lower mortality than those who were not married.


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