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  • People of a lower socioeconomic status have a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease.

    People of a lower socioeconomic status have a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 July 2019

The study found that from 1993 to 2017 overall, white men in the highest income bracket were the healthiest group.

The United States (U.S.) is far from its “health equity” goal for 2020, as a new peer-reviewed study published on June 28 found that as the gap between rich and poor widens, so does the gap in their health.

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“What's happening to the health of wealthier people is that it's remaining relatively stagnant, but the health of the lowest income group is declining substantially over time," the study's lead author and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Frederick Zimmerman explained. 

The investigation used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from more than 5.4 million people aged 18 to 64. Partipants answered two questions: “over the last 30 days, how many healthy days have you had?” and “on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your overall health?”

With their responses, the study found that from 1993 to 2017 overall, white men in the highest income bracket were the healthiest group. Although across all groups, U.S. respondents self-reported health has declined.

"Results of this analysis suggest that there has been a clear lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the U.S.," the researchers added. One in four people in the U.S. chose not to receive treatment for a health issue over the last year due to its high cost, according to a new survey released by Gallup and West Health, a health care nonprofit.

The experts looked at differences in health between white and black people and between three income brackets. Their goal was to asses the degree to which race, income, and gender influenced health outcomes over time, a measure they called "health justice."

On the disparity between health outcomes for black and white people the gap between narrowed significantly so income is the biggest predictor of differences in health outcomes, according to Zimmerman. 

This latest study echoes a 2016 report that showed that the average life expectancy of U.S. men in the bottom one percent of income distribution is roughly equivalent to the life expectancy of someone in Sudan or Pakistan. In June, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on health, Dainius Pūrasa, a Lithuanian warned that inequality and austerity are main factors for exacerbating mental health crisis around the world. 

“The profound and dynamic cause and effect relationship between mental health and inequalities compellingly suggest that mental health equity may be an especially important marker of social progress,” the report reads, with those in the bottom bearing the worst of the effects.

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