The Life Expectancy Gap Is Literally When You Die Sooner Because You’re Poor, So That’s Fun

Researchers have known for some time that economic class and health are inextricably linked, and that the stress and trauma of living in poverty has physical and emotional repercussions, but a recent study reveals how these stats break down by city as well. According to the Health Inequality Project, more rural locations have the greatest gap between income and longevity, whereas cities with bigger, better infrastructures have smaller gaps. For example, the top 25 percent richest women in Hays, KS, outlive the poorest 25 percent by over 10 years, whereas in Los Angeles, that gap narrows to just over three years.

That said, poverty is a more intersectional issue than simply location and gender. Here’s how the study accounted for race and ethnicity:

“Race-and-ethnicity adjusted estimates remove the differences in life expectancy across areas and income groups that are due to differences in the racial composition of those areas. Specifically, our race- and ethnicity- adjusted estimates represent the mean life expectancy that would prevail if each area and income group had the same proportions of black, Hispanic, and Asian individuals as the full national population.”

When you drill down into the statistics, African-American women have the highest incidence of and mortality rate from breast cancer than any other ethnic group. So, life expectancy and mortality is much more complex than the local infrastructure or even if you have money to access better health care. It’s a dizzyingly complex issue that doesn’t have any easy answers yet, not even from experts.