Life expectancy more dependent on smoking status than wealth

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A new study found that smoking outweighs other factors, including wealth, in shortening an individual’s lifespan.

The study, published in the journal, JAMA Network Open, was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Georgetown University. The researchers set out to discover how wealth impacted mortality disparities when compared to other socioeconomic factors.

Researchers designed a population-based cohort study, beginning in 1995 and following mortality rates of participants for approximately 18 years. The study, completed in November of 2021, was made up of 6,320 noninstitutionalized, English-speaking adults aged 25 to 74 years old living in the United States. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire via a phone interview which assessed childhood socioeconomic status, education, occupation, income, wealth, and smoking history. Researchers then compared the questionnaire responses to mortality rates.

The study’s results showed that while Americans with a net worth of $300,000 or more lived longer than those with no assets, an individual’s lifespan was more dependent on their smoking history than wealth. Researchers found that the likelihood of an individual with $300,000 or more surviving from age 65 to 85 years old was 19 percentage points higher than someone with no assets, however, the percentage point differential between smokers and nonsmokers was much higher at 37 percentage points.

"Our finding further confirmed that smoking shortens our lives and that abstaining from smoking might be cheaper and more effective for living longer,” said Chioun Lee, PhD, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Riverside.

This study’s findings suggest that an individual’s smoking history may dominate their wealth status, highlighting how much smoking impacts human health. According to researchers, while healthcare practitioners have no control over their patient’s wealth, they may be able to prolong their patient’s lifespan by discouraging smoking.