A wealth of information for those looking to gain extra years

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence famously proclaims that “all men are created equal.” But the available evidence seems to suggest that some members of the herd have their unique advantages.

After all, a select few are blessed with the ability to fight off injury and disease better than most. Others inherit genes that make them stunningly attractive.

Still others are bequeathed the minds, ambition, circumstances and stamina required to reach the apex. And some have parents with the resources and ambition to ensure the best possible educational and career opportunities. Some are born black; others white. If you don't think that makes a difference, take a look at who lives in your area's best and worst neighborhoods. The list goes on.

We're all created equal? That claim has more holes than boatload of Swiss cheese.

Clear distinctions also extend to how long we are likely to live, a new study finds. And guess what? Being fabulously wealthy sure doesn't hurt.

Research appearing Monday in JAMA reveals that America's richest men live a decade-and-a-half longer than their poorest counterparts. Rich women aren't quite so fortunate: they only gain about 10 years. But perhaps outliving their husbands will remove some of the sting.

Conversely, many poor Americans have a life expectancy that compares with the inhabitants of Pakistan and Sudan.

One of the study's more interesting findings is that geography can make a difference: The poor tend to live relatively longer in large cities, as well as smaller towns with a more supportive infrastructure. With apologies to Eddie Albert, the clear implication for the destitute is that Green Acres ain't the place to be.

Unless you are part of the upper crust, these findings should be sobering. But there are some hopeful messages here for the rest of us, particularly the poor. Researchers noted that steps to improve living habits and better public health services could help stanch the growing gap. So there's that.

Still, it's pretty clear that wealth is one of the best possible ways to avoid a life cut short. For millions of reasons, apparently.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.


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