Buying More Time – How Income Affects Longevity

Let’s face it: these days, money matters. Income is necessary to support our daily needs and wants (food, water, shelter, entertainment), but that also means money is often synonymous with stress. Because of the many ways money affects our lives, scientists have long wondered how wealth plays into overall health. Recently in fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association published findings on how income affects life expectancy. It appears the dollar may be accountable for more than just paying the bills.

Delving into the Dollar
To investigate how money affects the human lifespan, researchers analyzed U.S. income data and mortality rates over the course of 15 years (1999 to 2015). Unsurprisingly, the scientists found a positive correlation between income and life expectancy–on average, the richest 1% of males live about 15 years longer than the poorest 1%, while the top 1% of females live about 10 years longer than the bottom 1%. Interestingly though, the researchers found that life expectancy for low-income individuals varied depending on location. Essentially the low income subjects who also lived in what might be considered an affluent area (high number of college graduates, bans on smoking, etc.) tended to live longer than their financial counterparts living in the “slums”. Ultimately, the study reveals that the connection between income and life expectancy is not simple. There are many factors that play into longevity–but that monthly paycheck does play a role.

Lengthening Life
Even if you’re not in a situation to purchase your own fountain of youth, there are plenty of ways to foster healthy aging. Some of the regions with the highest life expectancies (so called blue zones) fall on the lower end of the income spectrum. So what do the inhabitants of these regions have in common? They get adequate sleep, they are active and they eat well, all of which we’ve shown may be linked to an increased lifespan.

So while the path to a longer life might not be clear-cut, there are plenty of ways to ensure you can stay on track. For more tips on healthy aging be sure to follow our webpage.

(Feature photo courtesy of

Samantha Lunsky

Samantha Lunsky is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.