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Why are wealthy people living up to nine years longer?

When looking a the relationship between health and success, medical inequalities are something I knew I had to cover. The wealthiest men and women can expect to live an additional eight to nine years free from disability compared to people in the poorest groups.

What I’ve learned so far about the positive relationship between health, wealth and happiness makes healthcare systems crucial to the success of individuals and communities.

Looking at the healthcare system in my home country, the US this week has opened my eyes to my own privilege and taught me about the consequences incurred when a healthcare system values profits over people.

Why I love hospitals

I’ve never had a bad experience with a hospital, but I’m aware people reading this have, and although I’m currently an outlier in my love of hospitals, I know this will likely change for me one day.

Why do I love hospitals? One of my favourite memories as a kid was being in a hospital after getting a heat stroke during summer camp. The reclining beds, the ice cream, the jello, the unlimited TV. Hospital and heaven start with the letter h. Coincidence? I think not (although hell starts with the letter h too, I’m choosing to ignore that).

To little me, the hospital was better than a five-star hotel, and I remember when my parents got the bill it almost cost as much as one. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where my mom received private health insurance covered by her work at the time. A lot of people in the United States aren’t so lucky.

Jeopardy question: The USA is ranked highest for their healthcare *blank*?

This week as I explored the health inequalities I looked at the cost per country vs. the success of the actual system. The lists I looked at were varied and inconsistent, but two trends emerged:

  1. The USA was constantly in the top 5 for the average price

  2. The USA was nowhere in the top 10 list for average quality

If people leave US hospitals alive, the debt they incur is substantial. The average hospital stay is 4.6 days. At an average cost of $2,873 a day, that’s $13,215.80, which is over seven months rent for the average American, however wealthy people spend more on average than less wealthy people on healthcare - despite being healthier.

Why are wealthy people spending more if they're healthier?

A study from Harvard showed the upper class in America is spending more on healthcare. A CNBC article on the study said: