Money may not buy happiness but it does seem to buy health

Money may not buy happiness but it does seem to buy health

You’ve probably heard this one before: money doesn’t buy happiness. An article in the Wall St. Journal (Money and Happiness: Here’s Why You Won’t Laugh All the Way to the Bank) confirms it.

Yes, if you live in poverty, more money can bolster your happiness.

“But once you’re safe and warm and fed, it makes surprisingly little difference,” says David Schkade, professor of management at the University of California at San Diego. “Once you get to the lower-middle class, then it takes a lot of income to make a difference. Income does matter, just not as much as people think.”

But it’s hard to have happiness without health. (As my grandmother used to tell my grandfather when he was feeling depressed, “At least you have your health.”) And, at least in this country more money is associated with more health. From a MedPage today report (A Hefty Bank Account Offers a Healthy Health Cushion) on a NEJM article (Gradient of Disability across the Socioeconomic Spectrum in the United States):

On balance, richer is healthier for Americans 55 and older.

Not only that, a little bit richer can translate into a little bit healthier. And a lot richer can mean a lot healthier. It’s a dose response.

So it seems on the basis of a report in the Aug. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine which found that even among Americans 55 and older who are comfortably in the middle class, relatively modest differences in income can have a significant impact on the risk of functional disability.

For example, a 55-year-old man making about $49,500 per year is 44% more likely to have a functional disability than his neighbor making $57,800 a year, said Meredith Minkler, Dr.P.H., of the University of California here, and colleagues. This they equated with health.

If the man’s income dropped to $33,000 per year, his disability risk would rise to more than double that of the $57,800 earner, Dr. Minkler and colleagues said.

The results suggested that the much-studied socioeconomic health disparity in the United States is not so much a chasm separating the richest and poorest but a gradient of risk affecting everyone in between, they said.

So while it’s nice to say money doesn’t matter, it may not really be true.

August 18, 2006

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