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January 13, 2022

Being poor is bad for your health

It’s no secret that smoking and obesity can lead to a stack of life-threatening conditions, but poverty may be even worse for your health, new research suggests.

According to a group of Columbia University researchers, Americans whose household income is in the bottom one-third of the population, or up to twice the national poverty level, lost more than eight years of otherwise good health.

Dropping out of high school was also a marker for poorer health. High school dropouts had 5.1 fewer years of good health, the researchers suggest. In comparison, obesity only trimmed 4.2 years off health scores, while smokers lost 6.6 years.

Are things any better here in Canada? Apparently not.

According to Statistics Canada, which uses a quality of life measurement called HALE (Health Adjusted Life Expectancy), being well-to-do translates into roughly 11.4 more years of healthy living for men, and 9.7 more healthy years for women.

Even making a comparison with those who have average incomes versus those at the highest level, the wealthy man has six more years of good health, and the wealthy women, 4.2 years, Stats Can reports.

Not surprisingly, the numbers vary by region. 

People live longest and have better health in British Columbia. Then, as you make your way east, these numbers are slightly reduced, until they begin to drop sharply in the Atlantic region.

What do you think? Do money and health go hand in hand?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...