A Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has said that individuals who live in areas with lower household incomes are much more likely to die because of their personal and household characteristics and their community surroundings.
The study, which claims that socioeconomic status can affect life expectancy, was led by Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., director of the VCU Center on Human Needs, professor in the Department of Family Medicine.
"It's tempting to assume that our findings are based on how much money people make," Woolf said. "But areas with high household incomes also tend to have better schools, a different racial and social mix and healthier community conditions."
In the study to be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health and available online today, Woolf and his colleagues analyzed census data and vital statistics from Virginia counties and cities between 1990 and 2006.
They demonstrated that one out of four deaths would have been averted if the mortality rates of Virginia's five most affluent counties and cities had existed statewide. In some of the most disadvantaged areas of the state, nearly half of the deaths would have been averted.
Regions of the state with deep poverty, large minority populations and lower educational achievement levels had high mortality rates in comparison with high household incomes, researchers found.