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The Health/Wealth Connection and Life Expectancy

Last update on: Mar 15 2020

Do wealthier people really live longer than everyone else? If so, why? The research indicates a clear connection between wealth and health. Wealthier people tend to live longer, healthier lives than poorer people. Is it the wealth that makes people healthier? Or do the traits that are likely to increase wealth also contribute to better health? The article quotes Dr. George Valliant, an expert I’ve cited in past issues of  Retirement Watch, and his conclusions make the most sense to me. Valliant says the research indicates first that behavior is the major factor in longevity. Avoid excess drinking, smoking, and weight gain, and you’re likely to live longer. Valliant believes that people with higher education tend to be more future-oriented, so they’re also less likely to engage in those bad habits. Beyond that, satisfying relationships and engagement with others are major contributors to longevity and good health.

But for Vaillant, the answer is much simpler. “Those wonderful pills that are marketed to let you live forever—those things just don’t seem to be terribly important,” he says. Instead, it’s making bigger behavioral choices, such as avoiding drinking too much and nurturing a stable marriage, that let people prolong their lives. And as for what makes people happy in old age, Vaillant says it has more to do with strong, loving relationships than anything for sale at a store. Says Vaillant, “I’m 77, and what I enjoy most are my grandchildren.”

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