The findings suggest that “the wealth-longevity connection may be causal”
THOMAS BARWICK/GETTY IMAGES
Being well off with love in middle age will help you to live longer, according to the first study of its kind to compare twins to gauge the impact of wealth on health.
The research looked at more than a thousand sets of twins and their love, and finances at an average age of 47 above, then studied how many died in the next 24 years.
A difference of $50,000 (£36,319) in net worth was associated with about a 5 percent net decrease in the probability of death nearly 24 years later, favouring the twin with higher net worth. Siblings showed a similar pattern.
The use of twins was designed to exclude certain so-called confounders — factors apart from wealth and health which might have an influence on both.
“This finding suggests the wealth-longevity connection may be causal, and isn’t simply a reflection of heritable traits or early experiences that cluster in families,” the researchers wrote.
The results appear to bolster the argument that eliminating poverty is an important step to improve the health of the most disadvantaged. Some analysts have disagreed, arguing that the apparent link between poverty and ill health arises because ill health causes poverty.
The research was carried out in the United States, where there is no British-style national health service and private insurance is typically required to access good quality healthcare.
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However, there has often been debate in the UK about the exact nature of the link between mortality and money.
Eric Finegood, a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Illinois, said that the results provided “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”.
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In California, fitness is taken to extremes. There are shops in image-obsessed Beverly Hills packed with pills and potions to extend life. In Santa Monica, there are so many fitness boot camps and yoga sessions taking place in public parks that local officials are considering a clampdown.
"In California you see people exercising at 05:15 and it's either great for them or it is part of a really neurotic psychosis where they're desperately unhappy because they're getting older," says Ed Saxon, who produced the film Fast Food Nation in 2006.
"The 55-year-old imagining that they look like a 25-year-old and getting surgery or fanatically exercising to do so - it all strikes me as a bad idea.
"The obsession with looking younger than you are means you are denying reality and you are probably denying your own value in some way."
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Twins, like the Crumby sisters, may have a better chance at living longer than the rest of us, a recent study found. Their close social bond protects against risky behaviors, provides emotional support during stressful times, and promotes healthy behaviors similar to the “marriage protection effect,” which finds married adults are healthier than singles, the researchers from the University of Washington noted.
The twins were born in 1916 and raised by their grandmother in Hancock County, Georgia, southeast of Atlanta, where they grew up on a farm, worked on the field, and went to “a little school” with only one teacher, they told WMAZ-TV.
Both became seamstresses, with Ann moving to New York when she got married, and Gussie staying closer to home with her husband. They lived apart for decades but reunited in the late 90s, and since then, “we haven't been apart so much,” the women told the station.
The researchers also considered the possibility that health conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, could reduce a person’s ability to accrue wealth. They re-analyzed the data using only individuals without cancer or heart disease. However, even within this sub-group of healthy individuals, the association with sets of twins and siblings between wealth and longevity remained.
Professor Greg Miller said: “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 individuals’ ability to achieve financial security are needed.”
Studies involving twins have long been used as a means of trying to unravel the effects of nature and nurture. Because identical twins share the same genetic code, comparing their health can help determine whether genetic or environmental factors play more of a role. One famous recent example involved only one set — the American astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space on the International Space Station, and his identical twin Mark. The researchers who tracked each man deduced that while Scott might have had a more exciting year, Mark probably had a marginally healthier one.
One of the largest recent twin studies investigated the health of 56,396 pairs of twins. The results, published in Nature Genetics, suggested that cognitive conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder had the strongest genetic influence, while eye disorders and respiratory diseases were more influenced by the environment. The latest study was published in the journal JAMA Health Forum. It comes after a review by Professor Michael Marmot, a health inequalities expert at University College London, who found higher Covid-19 mortality rates in the more impoverished council areas in England.
Life expectancy fell by 1.6 years for men and 1.2 years for women in the North West last year compared with 1.3 years and 0.9 years in England as a whole. Meanwhile, a Lords’ report last year found that healthy eating advice from the government cited food that was too expensive for poorer families and was thus failing to tackle obesity.
Source: TLH. Intelligence, and TheTime, The Lowdown Hub 2021.