Economics, Longevity, Medical News, World health

Net worth at midlife inversely associated with mortality, cohort study finds

According to a new cohort study of 5414 people, those who had a higher net worth by midlife had a considerably lower risk of mortality over the next 24 years.

Sociologists have long been interested in the connection between socioeconomic status and longevity. Longitudinal studies have shown that health and income provide substantial health-related benefits such as better living conditions, access to better health services, and even better overall mental well being.

In a recently published study, researchers at Northwestern University uncovered a more specific connection relating personal net worth to life longevity through the examination of several siblings and twins of different families. 

The Northwestern University research team looked specifically at whether or not there was a distinct correlation between net worth and mortality age. In the past, there has been evidence pointing to a link between the two factors, however, it is not fully known whether or not genetics or circumstances as a child play an effect in the previous findings. 

The researchers discovered that individuals who obtain a higher socioeconomic status tend to live longer than those who are less financially stable, indicating that there is a significant correlation between net worth and longevity of life. 

The paper states, “After covariate adjustment, net worth was inversely associated with mortality (HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.94-0.97; P < .001) such that the hazard was 5% lower for every additional $50 000 of net worth accumulated at midlife.”

In terms of life expectancy, the study found that socioeconomic differences play a significant role. Net worth was found to be directly related to longevity of life and was shown to be more strongly correlated with mortality than other markers of socioeconomic position, such as occupational reputation, educational attainment, and income.

The team used data from a previous longitudinal study on aging from 1994 to 2018. This original study was performed through the Midlife in the United States project. However, Northwestern University took the data and focused on twins and siblings (average age of 46.7 years) to research their findings. They did this to eliminate the uncertainties behind genetic and childhood effects, and thus focusing only on financial income between the twins and siblings. 

The findings demonstrate that interventions aimed at assisting people in accumulating wealth and achieving financial security in adulthood could have significant health advantages. With the wealth gap ever increasing in the U.S., this study on the relationship between net worth and health is something for lawmakers to consider. The researchers suggested that they hope their study can help provide context for future government, financial and health aid policies, as well as further socioeconomic studies. 

Dr. Miller added, “…Wealth inequality has skyrocketed. Our results suggest that building wealth is important for health at the individual level, even after accounting for where one starts out in life. So, from a public health perspective, policies that support and protect individuals’ ability to achieve financial security are needed.”

The study was published in JAMA, on July 23rd, 2021.

Abstract. In this cohort study of 5414 participants in the Midlife in the United States study, those who had accumulated a higher net worth by midlife had significantly lower mortality risk over the subsequent 24 years. In sibling and twin comparison models that controlled for shared early life experiences and genetic influence, the association between net worth and longevity was similar in magnitude.

Finegood ED, Briley DA, Turiano NA, et al. Association of Wealth With Longevity in US Adults at Midlife. JAMA Health Forum. 2021;2(7):e211652. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2021.1652

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