The Gap Between Rich And Poor Americans’ Health Is Widening – NPR

EVA Issues in the News

Susie Neilson of NPR outlines key takeaways from a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network in this article originally shared on June 28, 2019. The study found that across all groups self-reported health has declined and that the impact of factors such as race, gender, and income have become more prevalent. Overall, the health of wealthier groups has remained fairly stagnant while the health of lower-income groups has steadily declined. Read the following excerpt and click through to the full article for more details, including suggested policy changes to combat this disturbing trend.


Income inequality in the U.S. has grown over the past several decades. And as the gap between rich and poor yawns, so does the gap in their health, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open Friday.

The study drew from annual health survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1993 to 2017, including around 5.5 million Americans ages 18-64. The researchers focused on two questions from the survey recommended by the CDC as reliable indicators of health: 1. Over the last 30 days, how many healthy days have you had? 2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your overall health?

What they found: Across all groups, Americans’ self-reported health has declined since 1993. And race, gender and income play a bigger role in predicting health outcomes now than they did in 1993. Overall, white men in the highest income bracket were the healthiest group.

“And actually, what’s happening to the health of wealthier people is that it’s remaining relatively stagnant, but the health of the lowest income group is declining substantially over time,” says Frederick Zimmerman, the study’s lead author and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The researchers looked at differences in health between white and black people and between three income brackets. They assessed the degree to which race, income and gender influenced health outcomes over time, a measure they called “health justice.”

Finally, they calculated the gap between people’s health outcomes and that of the most privileged demographic: high-income white men.

“Results of this analysis suggest that there has been a clear lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the United States,” the researchers write.

Income was the biggest predictor of differences in health outcomes, according to Zimmerman. Health differences between the highest income group and lowest income group increased “really quite dramatically,” he says.

Things weren’t all negative. On one measure — disparity between health outcomes for black and white people — the gap between health outcomes narrowed significantly.

But gender and race still influenced health outcomes.

Lisa Cooper, a Bloomberg distinguished professor in health equity at Johns Hopkins University, called the study’s conclusions “frustrating, but honestly not surprising.”

Read the full article at NPR.


Issues in the News highlights news items focusing on key issues for poor and low-income families, from fair work and access to health care to family economic security, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and more.

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