Study reveals that wealth in middle age leads to a longer life

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Having money in the bank by middle age can add years to your life, a study revealed, finding that every £36,000 saved cut the death risk by five per cent over 24 years. 

This even applied in the case of siblings, with those saving £100,000 more than a brother or sister had a 13 per cent greater chance of outliving their relative. 

Over 5,400 people in the US were tracked for 25 years, and data on their wealth and life was analysed by researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Information on participants, with an average age of 46, was collected from 1994 to 1996, and followed up in 2018 when 1,000, about a fifth, had died. 

Corresponding author Dr Eric Finegood said the findings suggest that one of the keys to a long life may lie in your net worth and its related health benefits such as being able to afford better care, food and more time to rest.

He said government policies to reduce income inequality would have ‘significant health benefits’ on the general population.  

This even applied in the case of siblings, with those saving £100,000 more than a brother or sister had a 13 per cent greater chance of outliving their relative. Stock image

The study in JAMA Health Forum used survival models to work out the connection between net worth and longevity.

Factors of genetics and wealth were teased apart by dividing the men and women into subsets of siblings and twins.

In the full sample, having more money reduced mortality risk, and a similar trend was identified among the segment of siblings within the group.

A person with more financial assets tended to live longer than a brother, sister or twin with fewer assets, they discovered.

Dr Finegood said: ‘These findings should be interpreted through a broader societal lens,’ adding that the US is first in economic inequality of high income nations. 

‘Over the past 30 years, the gap has widened through policies and practices that have diverted a substantial and increasing share of wealth from lower and middle income groups to the affluent.’

‘Such redistribution may have implications for longevity patterns in the coming decades,’ he explained, adding that policies to reduce the wealth gap, if properly implemented, could generate ‘substantial returns to public health.’ 

The results remained after taking into account previous illnesses like heart disease or cancer and could impact the ability to accrue wealth due to healthcare costs. 

Dr Finegood and colleagues re-analysed the data using only individuals without cancer or heart disease. The outcome was the same.

Over 5,400 people in the US were tracked for 25 years, and data on their wealth and life was analysed by researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Stock image

Senior author Professor Greg Miller, also from Northwestern, added: ‘Far too many American families are living pay cheque to pay cheque with little to no financial savings to draw on in times of need.

‘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,’ said Miller.

The findings have been published in the journal JAMA Health Forum

Scientists say the key to being content is lowering your expectations – but not so far that it leaves you miserable 

Lowering your expectations, but not so far it leaves you miserable, is the key to a happy life, according to scientists searching for the ‘equation for happiness’.

Experts from University College London have launched the Happiness Project, a search for a simple equation to explain what makes us happy.

To determine happiness levels they launched a mobile app that encouraged players to make risky decisions and say how they thought they would perform. 

More than 18,000 people played the game, giving the researchers an insight into links between performance, expectations and happiness levels in players. 

They paired findings with MRI scans to gain a deeper understanding and one day create an equation that can ‘explain the different factors that matter for happiness in each and every one of us.’

The same team published an equation in 2016 that linked happiness the equality, finding greater inequality leads to lower levels of happiness. 

For the new work they found happiness is linked to expectations. Finding that lowering expectations increases the likelihood of a positive surprise, but constantly lowering them can leave you unhappy – so it is about finding the right balance. 

The authors say we should treat happiness ‘as a tool rather than a goal in its own right,’ to give us insight into any given task and direct our actions based on feeling. 

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