Americans with higher net worth at midlife tend to live longer

Photo by Olawale Munna on Unsplash
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CHICAGO, (Xinhua) — Researchers from the Northwestern University (NU) analyzed the midlife net worth of U.S. adults of mean age of 46.7 years and their mortality rates 24 years later, and discovered that those with greater wealth at midlife tended to live longer.

Using data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, a longitudinal study on aging, the researchers used survival models to analyze the association between net worth and longevity.

In the full sample of 5,400 adults, higher net worth was associated with lower mortality risk. Within the data set of siblings and twin pairs, the researchers discovered a similar association with a tendency for the sibling or twin with more wealth to live longer than their co-sibling/twin with less. 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 also considered the possibility that previous health conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, could impact an individual’s ability to accrue wealth due to activity limitations or healthcare costs, possibly confounding any association between wealth and longevity. To address this, they re-analyzed the data using only individuals without cancer or heart disease. However, even within this sub-group of healthy individuals, the within-family association between wealth and longevity remained.

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“Far too many American families are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no financial savings to draw on in times of need,” said Greg Miller, a professor of psychology and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at NU. “At the same time, 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 Friday in JAMA Health Forum.