A new study published in medical journal The Lancet has found that those at the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder may live two years less on average than those at the top.
According to Lifepath, a European Commission-funded consortium that conducted the study, “Socioeconomic disadvantage has almost the same impact on health than smoking or a sedentary lifestyle.”
Researchers said social rank is a bigger risk factor for illness and premature death than either high alcohol consumption or obesity, and it nearly equals the risk posed by physical inactivity. On average, a low social rank shaved over 25 months off the average lifespan, compared with six months for heavy alcohol intake and eight months for obesity. For diabetes, the risk was almost four years in lost life, and for smoking nearly five.
The study was the first to attempt to weigh the health risk of socioeconomic status against other modifiable factors, at least in high-income countries.
“Low socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of premature mortality worldwide, but health policymakers often do not consider it a risk factor to target,” the study said.
Researchers reviewed data from 48 previous studies covering more than 1.7 million people from 7 countries – Australia, Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United States.