Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New study links higher income with lower disability rates

Numerous studies have already established the link between extreme poverty and poor health, but a new study led by a public health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that health disparities exist even between those with higher incomes.

"What was unusual was that we found that people in the middle class were still at a disadvantage compared with those at just a slightly higher income," said Meredith Minkler, professor of health and social behavior at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and lead author of the study, published in the Aug. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "The fact that there's a significant difference between people at 600 and 700 percent above the poverty level was a striking finding of this study."

Household income was categorized into nine levels, from less than 100 percent of the poverty line to 700 percent and higher. In 2000, the poverty threshold for a person living alone who was 65 or older was $8,259 per year, and it was $17,761 for a four-person household. A single 65-year-old living at 600 percent of poverty would therefore earn $49,544 per year in income while someone at 700 percent of poverty would earn $57,813. A four-person household at 600 percent of poverty would take in $106,566 per year, while the comparable annual income at 700 percent is $124,327.

"We have lots of evidence that wealthier people in society are healthier and live longer than the poorest, but less settled is whether you see this gradient with respect to disability, and whether it plays out among older people," said Minkler.

The researchers found significant differences in the rates of limitations even among those in the upper income brackets. Among those who were 55-74 years old, even those at 600-699 percent of the poverty line had elevated odds of having a disability compared to those at 700 percent and higher. For example, women aged 55-64 in the 600-699 percent category had 16 percent higher odds of disability than women in the 700 percent bracket, and men aged 65-74 in the 600-699 percent group had 44 percent higher odds than men in the 700 percent group.

Co-authors of the study are Esme Fuller-Thomson, associate professor of social work at the University of Toronto, and Jack Guralnik, M.D., chief of the Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry Section at the National Institute on Aging.

The researchers looked at data from 335,000 respondents aged 55 and older to the Census 2000 American Community Survey. They compared poverty level status with the rate of functional limitation, defined as a long-lasting condition that substantially limited one or more basic physical activities, such as walking, reaching or lifting. They chose functional limitation as a variable over death or illness, since many chronic diseases affect functional status.

Of the respondents surveyed, 80,791 had functional limitations. Not surprisingly, the prevalence of functional limitation increased with age. Among men aged 55-64 years, 16.2 percent reported some level of functional limitation compared with 47.5 percent for those aged 85 years and over. Among women who were 55-64 years old, 17.2 percent had functional limitation compared with 57.9 percent for those 85 and over.

The researchers found the biggest differences among the younger age group, those aged 55-64. In that group, people who were living in poverty were six times more likely to report functional limitation than people in the same age group who were living at or above 700 percent of the poverty level, with very little difference between men and women.

"These findings underscore that poverty is one of the major risk factors for disability," said Fuller-Thomson.

The study authors point to a number of possible explanations for the social gradient in health. The upper class has lower rates of smoking, and may have less stress, better access to health coverage, and healthier environments, including safer neighborhoods that encourage walking and have less pollution, even when compared with those living comfortable middle class lives, according to the researchers.

"We know that Americans 55 and above today are relatively health conscious compared to prior generations, but it may be that the wealthiest Americans have the greatest edge in acting upon their motivations to stay healthy," said Minkler. "For instance, wealthier adults with problems walking can afford to renovate their homes to make them more accessible to wheelchairs. This could include widening doorways and installing ramps in the home's front entrance."

The researchers point out that while the rate of disability has been declining slowly but steadily over the past two decades, the aging of the baby boomer generation means that the sheer number of people with disabilities is going to increase.

"There are now almost 8,000 people turning 60 every day in the U.S.," said Minkler. "It's therefore important for us to understand all of the factors that affect disability rates. Social class is a badly neglected determinant of health and illness. This study highlights that socioeconomic status operates independently of such factors as race, ethnicity and health behaviors. Although researchers often control for social class, it warrants much more focused attention."

Sarah Yang | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>