Wealth is Health: Inequality in Stroke Risk
When it comes to the risk of dying young from stroke, it seems that the rich has a big advantage over the poor. A study by Dutch researchers shows that an American’s risk of suffering from stroke is related to his income. At least for adults below 65. Beyond 65, the gap in the risk narrows and becomes almost non-existent.
After the age of 65, the effect of selective survival kicks in, e.g. poor people with the highest risk will have died before reaching this age and only the healthiest and fittest are left.
The reasons for this health advantage of the rich over the poor are many, among them is the fact that those who belong to the low income group tend to smoke and drink more but exercise and eat nutritious food less.
Another main reason is probably the fact that poor people lack health literacy as well as primary health care as a consequence of not having health insurance coverage. According to a recent CDC report from 2005 data:
- 43.6 million (14.8%) people in the US do not have health insurance.
- Those who have insurance tend to consult their doctors more often.
- Most patients landing in an emergency room are not health insured.
Of those who are uninsured, 36.5 million are adults and 6.8 million are children.
The same group of researchers also point out the US healthcare system focuses more on treatment and less on prevention, in contrast to what is practiced in other countries, especially Europe.