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Money may not buy happiness but new research suggests it may at least help Americans live longer.
"Our results suggest that building wealth is important for health at the individual level, even after accounting for where one starts out in life," said Greg Miller, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research, in Chicago. "So, from a public health perspective, policies that support and protect individuals' ability to achieve financial security are needed."
But far too many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with little or nothing to fall back on in times of need, added Miller, senior author of the new study.
For the study, Miller's team analyzed data from 5,400 adult participants in the Midlife in the United States project.
The researchers compared the net worth of participants (average age, 47 years) in the mid-1990s and their death rates 24 years later.
The takeaway: Those with greater wealth at midlife tended to live longer.
But the researchers wondered if other factors — perhaps familial — might also be at play.
When they focused on a subset of nearly 2,500 siblings and twin pairs, they found a similar association, suggesting that the connection between wealth and longevity goes beyond genetics or shared family experiences.
The findings were published July 23 in JAMA Health Forum.
"The within-family association provides strong evidence that an association between wealth accumulation and life expectancy exists, because comparing siblings within the same family to each other controls for all of the life experience and biology that they share," corresponding author Eric Finegood, a postdoctoral fellow, said in a university news release.
The researchers also re-examined the data using only people without cancer or heart disease. This was done to find out whether these health conditions and their related costs could reduce a person's ability to gain wealth and possibly skew any link between wealth and longevity.
But even in this group of healthy people, the familial link between wealth and longevity remained.
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SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, July 23, 2021
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