Here's how much longer wealthy Honolulu residents live than their poorer counterparts

Published: Apr. 12, 2016 at 7:25 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2016 at 1:41 AM HST
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(Image: JAMA)
(Image: JAMA)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The top 25 percent of income earners in Honolulu live 6.6 years longer on average than residents at the bottom income quartile, a new national study found.

The study, which analyzed income data from 1.4 billion tax records between 1999 and 2014, is one of the most comprehensive to date to look at the relationship between wealth and longevity across the United States.

The biggest takeaway: Regardless of where you live, you'll live longer if you're rich.

Put another way: "The poorer you are, the more likely you are to die younger," said Keawe Kaholokula, chairman of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

The study found that the gap in life expectancy nationally between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the poorest 1 percent was nearly 15 years for men and 10 years for women.

Worse, growing income inequality means the relationship between how much you earn and how long you'll live is becoming more pronounced.

"Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5 percent of the income distribution," the researchers wrote, "but by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5 percent."

Meanwhile, those in the top income quartile nationally lived on average 7 years longer than those in the bottom income quartile.

The gap was only slightly smaller in Honolulu.

Interestingly, though, those in the top income quartile in Honolulu didn't live as long as their wealthy counterparts in other localities: The average for the Honolulu group was 84.8 years. That's compared to 87.7 years in Salt Lake City, where residents in the top income quartile lived the longest.

The study, published online Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association, was quickly held up as further proof of the detrimental health effects of poverty and income inequality on Americans.

Kaholokula said the study points to the need to weave in social and cultural determinants of health into broader policy discussions.

The longevity gap, he said, is "beyond access to medical care. It's other factors – social stressors, economic stressors, discrimination. Over a lifetime, those can have a huge impact."

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