Wealth may not buy happiness, but it could be the key to a long life, according to a study published Friday by JAMA Health Forum.
According to the data, in a model comparing two family members whose nett worth differed by $139,000 by their late 40s, the one with the higher nett worth was 13% more likely to be alive 24 years later than a relative with less personal wealth.
Furthermore, the researchers stated that for every $50,000 of nett worth accumulated at midlife (defined as late 40s for the purposes of the study), a person could increase their chances of living for another 24 years by about 5%.
Furthermore, in the study population, wealthier siblings or twins lived longer than poorer siblings or twins.
According to the researchers, this suggests that wealthier people may live longer lives due to personal wealth rather than genetics.
Although this is good news for people with a lot of money and savings, it also suggests that income inequality may lead to health inequality, according to the researchers.
“Far too many American families are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no financial savings to draw on in times of need,” study co-author Greg Miller said in a press release.
Those who have less personal wealth likely also have reduced access to quality healthcare and an increased risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes that limit their ability to earn money and shorten their life expectancy, the researchers found.
“Our results suggest that building wealth is important for health at the individual level, even after accounting for where one starts out in life,” said Miller, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research in Evanston, Ill.
Between 1970 and 2018, incomes for the wealthiest people in the United States increased by 64%, according to data from Pew Research.
Over the same time period, earnings for middle- and low-income households increased by about 45 percent.
According to the Pew Research Center, income growth was especially strong for the top 5% of earners in the country, while it was “tepid” for the remaining 95%.
According to Pew, such income inequality suggests that people on the “lower rungs of the economic ladder may face diminished economic opportunity.”
Miller and his colleagues used data from the Midlife in the United States project, a national ageing study, to examine adults’ midlife nett worth and mortality rates 24 years later.
The total study population consisted of 5,400 adults, approximately 2,500 of whom were sibling or twin pairs.
Higher nett worth was associated with a 6% lower mortality risk from an average age of roughly 47 to 24 years later, according to the data.
Even after study participants with heart disease or cancer were excluded from the analysis, the within-family association between wealth and longevity remained.
“The within-family association provides strong evidence that an association between wealth accumulation and life expectancy exists,” study co-author Eric Finegood said in a press release.
“[That’s] because comparing siblings within the same family to each other controls for all of the life experience and biology that they share,” said Finegood, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research.