Wealth strongly and consistently correlates with good health and an overall reduced mortality risk. A new paper summarizing past research and presenting new data which confirms the link has just been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It's titled "Long-Term Effects of Wealth on Mortality and Self-rated Health Status". The study focused on self-reported perceptions of health status and the results mirrored those of the objective measure for mortality: socioeconomic status is a good predictor of health status.
Why do the least wealthy (aka the poor) tend to be the least healthy? Those pushing the cause of so-called environmental justice claim that the poor, who unsurprisingly live in the cheapest and thus least pristine areas, are exposed to toxic chemicals, electro-magnetic fields and ionizing radiation at levels far higher than the rich (who tend not to build their mansions next to refineries) and that such exposures are to blame. Others, the "real food" activists, claim that the poor live in a junk food environment and, the W.I.C. program notwithstanding, have not the means to come by nutritious food. Still others claim that the poor suffer from inadequate health care. There is though another reason the poor might be so afflicted. It was best stated by a now deceased safety man who spent his career with one of the oil companies in Port Arthur, TX as follows: "Poor folks got poor ways."
We were at the deposition of a retired refinery worker who was suffering from leukemia and who was giving a deposition before he passed away to be used by his wife in a subsequent gross negligence case against his and the safety man's employer. The deponent was asked by plaintiff's counsel, "If you'd have known about the dangers these chemicals like benzene posed would you have come to work for xxxx Oil Company?" The man, obviously prep'd for the question answered "No way. I'd 'a stayed in the piney woods loggin' like my daddy done. It might not 'a paid as much but I wouldn't 'a got this cancer". The safety man leaned over and said "Yeah, and he'd have died of cirrhosis at 48 just like his daddy done."
That old safety man went on to explain that the men who came out of the woods, and the cane fields and off the pogy boats to work hourly at those refineries often signed their job applications with an "X" but they wound up solidly in the middle class and their children or grandchildren made it to college and beyond. "Some couldn't even write their name when they got here and nobody ever went back to bein' a gawddamned logger from the xxxx Oil Company."
The epidemiological studies of those refinery work forces have repeatedly found that overall the men lived significantly longer, were significantly healthier and had a lower risk of all cancers combined than similar men in the general U.S. population - despite exposures to asbestos, benzene, butadiene and the like. Compared to loggers, and boat crews and farm laborers the average refinery worker bought himself six more years of healthy life just by going to work for better pay in an environment where middle class values were the norm.