I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “It’s who you know, not what you know, that matters”. When it comes to your health what you’ve got may be more important than who you are.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America, income is the single largest social factor driving overall health. Roughly 22% of Americans who earned less than 100% of the federal poverty level had a health status that was “poor to fair” compared with 5% of Americans making more than 400% of the poverty level.
Education level is another important indicator of health. According to the report, a 25-year-old college graduate can expect to live up to nine years longer than a 25-year-old who has not completed high school. My guess is that this indicator is tied to income as well. You would expect a college graduate to have more income opportunity than someone who did not complete high school.
The report doesn’t determine why health status is affected by income but I’m willing to make a few assumptions of my own. First would be access to care. Those making more than 400% of the federal poverty guideline are more likely to have private insurance either self funded or through an employer which means there are more health care providers willing to provide them with care.
Access to care is worthless if you can’t access the care. I’m going to guess that those making more than 400% of the federal poverty guideline have the ability to pay for transportation to take them somewhere when they need to access primary care.
Preventive care and medications would also seem to be more accessible for someone making more than 400% of the federal poverty guideline. Medicine is designed to do two things, either prevent and illness or prevent an illness from getting worse. If your income is less than 100% of the federal poverty guideline you have no discretionary income. Some may argue that money spent on medication isn’t discretionary but if the choice is medication or food you’re going to choose food. Preventive care is just that, it prevents you from getting sick. Someone who has poor access to care would have even less access to preventive care.
Genetics, lifestyle choices, diet and exercise all matters when it comes to health but income may matter more…