Jan 22, 2020 - Health

Social mobility may explain life expectancy gap between rich and poor

A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelve
A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelf in 2018. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Social mobility — the ability to move up the income ladder — can help explain the gap between the life expectancies of the rich and the poor, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

What they found: Counties with higher social mobility tend to have smaller life expectancy gaps between the rich and poor, and the poorest people in those counties live longer.

Between the lines: Drug, alcohol and suicide-related deaths — which have led to declining U.S. life expectancy — are labeled as "deaths of despair" and are often linked to decreasing socioeconomic prospects.

  • "A growing body of literature suggests that living in areas with low social mobility may harm individuals’ health by reducing their beliefs about future well-being, consequently increasing stress or diminishing the motivation to engage in healthy behaviors," the authors write.

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