In Sickness and in Wealth
Directed by Llewellyn M Smith (2008)
It’s no mystery and doesn’t need yet more study. Epidemiologists have known since the late seventies that health and life expectancy directly correlate with income level, irrespective of genetics, lifestyle (smoking, exercise, diet, etc), or access to medical care. This documentary is a about a 2008 study that examined four Louisville districts with varying average income levels.
Residents in the wealthiest district earned incomes averaging $100,000+. Nearly all had college degrees and owned their own homes. Their average life expectancy was 80 years.
In the second most prosperous district, most residents had high school diplomas. Although a minority owned their homes, they considered themselves solidly middle class. They had an average life expectancy of 76 years.
In the third wealthiest district, fewer were high school graduates. Many had difficulty maintaining stable employment and lived in subsidized housing. Lacking in chain supermarkets or other access to fresh produce, the district is characterized as a food desert. The average life expectancy here was 74 years. In the poorest district, unemployment was double the national average, and many residents suffered from chronic illness and received disability benefits. Most had failed to complete high school. Thirty percent lived below the national poverty level. Their average life expectancy was 70 years.
The study reinforced prior research* indicating that neither genetics, lifestyle, nor access to medical care has as much influence on health outcomes as income and social status.
Scientists believe low social status leads to poorer immune function and adverse health effects due to the total lack of control poor people have over their lives. This absence of control tends to result in high chronic stress levels that contribute directly to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and impaired immunity.
Overall African Americans had worse health outcomes than white residents regardless of income or social status. Scientists believe this relates to the chronic stress they experience related to racial slights and abuse in their interactions with white people.
More recent research indicates that growing inequality (ie tax and public spending policies that grants billionaires a larger and larger share of the wealth working people create) since the 2008 economic crash is worsening health discrepancies based on wealth and racial differences. The solution is no mystery, either. We will never end inequality so long as we allow private banks to create and control our money system. Contrary to popular belief, private banks presently create 97% of our money (out of thin air) when they issue loans.**
*The film mentions 1967-1977 The Whitehall Study https://unhealthywork.org/classic-studies/the-whitehall-study/
The full film can be viewed free at Kanopy by anyone with a public library card. Type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.