Mortality and Socioeconomic levels in the U.S.

This article is about the inverse association between risk of disease and socioeconomic level. This is quickly becoming one of the most prevalent topics observed in public health. Often when one thinks of socioeconomic level, regardless of how it is measured, it is equated to things such as property of an individual. It is also used in determining medical care, quality of food/housing, and other necessities. This article argues that while these things are correct, in industrialized countries it is important to consider the distribution of wealth overall. Studies are showing that as countries become more egalitarian in relation to economic distribution, life expectancy will increase.

The rationale behind this study is; examining the factors above in the United States will yield results in mortality trends and how socioeconomic position effects one’s overall health. The research was conducted by looking income inequality censuses in the 80’s and 90’s. Annual Household income was also calculated and divided into approximately 20 groups. This was then used to bracket incomes into percentiles and extrapolate the data in regard to where it fell in said percentile.

After analyzing the research, a significant correlation was found between household income and mortality. The less income a household had, the higher the rate of mortality for all causes. Another interesting result was that lower levels of income were also associated with higher levels of smoking, homicide, violent crime, imprisonment, and unemployment. A couple of interesting conclusions can be drawn from the article. One is that the variations of income inequality are significantly associated with mortality trends, social indicators, and numerous health outcomes. This is very important when looking at things such as economic policies. This information proves that economic policies can have major implications on the health of countries. Going forward citizens should be wary of policies that increase the inequality of income distribution as they can deteriorate the health of the overall population.

Overall the article was interesting and insightful. The information was presented in a relatively clear way and the researchers related it to the problem well. The multitude of graphs and tables also help to provide a good visual representation as means to better understand the data. However, while the bulk of the article was written well, there were a couple of points that could stand to be clarified. At the end of the paper, towards the conclusions, the authors went off on a tangent about an ecological fallacy. I felt the relevance of including this could have been better explained to the reader.

Kaplan, George A., et al. “Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways.” Bmj 312.7037 (1996): 999-1003.

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