It’s said that money can’t buy you happiness. That’s certainly true. But there’s something money can buy, apparently. According to researchers wealth can buy you a longer life.
Read on to find out just how much wealth researchers say you’ll need to accumulate to extend your lifespan.
The new study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, is not the first to examine if money is tied to lifespan.
For instance, a previous study found an increased risk of death among retired stockholders when their wealth was reduced after a sizable fall in the value of their holdings.
Other studies have found that accumulated wealth is more strongly associated with a reduction in the mortality rate than other indicators of socioeconomic status such as occupational prestige, educational attainment and income.
However, the findings of these studies could be suspect because they don’t consider other factors that might play a role, such as an adult’s early environment and biological traits they could have inherited.
The new Northwestern study appears to be the first to take these factors into account.
How Wealth Impacts Longevity
The Northwestern study followed 5,414 participants and 2,490 of them were siblings and some of those siblings were twins. The ages of the whole cohort ranged from 20 to 75 with an average age of 47 when the study began in 1994.
At that time participants had an average net worth of $122,153. Researchers followed them for almost 24 years until 2018. During this period there were 1,010 deaths.
After accounting for age, gender, race, education, history of heart disease and cancer, as well as regular use of alcohol and cigarettes, researchers found that wealth does in fact impact longevity.
Each $50,000 Reduces Risk of Death
For the whole cohort of participants, net worth was inversely associated with mortality. Specifically researchers found that risk of death from all causes was reduced by five percent for every additional $50,000 in net worth accumulated at mid-life.
When the siblings and twin data was analyzed separately, the result was little changed, “suggesting”, the researchers wrote, “that the sibling or twin with more wealth tended to live longer than their co-sibling or co-twin with less wealth.” This was in spite of any environmental, genetic or medical similarities.
The researchers added, “A difference of $139,000 in net worth was associated with a 13 percent relative decrease in the probability of death nearly 24 years later, favoring the family member with a higher net worth…”
Building Wealth is “Important” to Health
The findings suggest the wealth-longevity connection may be causal and not just a reflection of traits that are inherited or early influences that cluster in families.
Dr. Eric Finegood, first author of the new research published in the JAMA Health Forum in July, explains, saying, “The within-family association provides strong evidence that an association between wealth accumulation and life expectancy exists, because comparing siblings within the same family to each other controls for all the life experience and biology that they share.”
His colleague and lead author Gregory Miller added, “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.”
These results hardly surprise me. We’ve known for years that individuals living with fewer financial resources—especially those in poverty— suffer from more chronic and potentially deadly health problems.
This research is just another reason it’s important to save money and adopt a solid wealth-building strategy long before you reach mid-life. If you’re behind, start sooner rather than later.