Health & Wealth

Whether as stated by the Roman poet Virgil, Gandhi or the ancient Greek physician Herophilus, “when health is absent, wealth is useless.” You may also be familiar with the saying…”money can’t buy you everything”, namely good health. Health and wealth are very intertwined in that while you can’t buy good health, unhealthy choices are very expensive. For example, the average price of a pack of cigarettes in North Carolina is $5.50. If you smoke 2 packs a day, your total yearly cost for this unhealthy habit is $4015. Tobacco causes several types of cancer of which most cancer treatments can run in the hundreds of thousands of healthcare dollars, whether the patient has health insurance or not. Instead of spending this $4015 on cigarettes, you could have invested this same amount annually over 30 years at a conservative 5% average return and would have saved over $500,000.

Financial problems and poverty are often precursors to poor health/ premature death and vice versa. The greater a person’s income, the lower the likelihood of chronic disease or premature death. In the US, low-income adults have increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and mental health disorders. Low-income children have increased rates of asthma and childhood obesity which often is a strong predictor of adult obesity which is a common denominator in diabetes/ heart disease/ stroke/ premature death. Wealthier, higher income adults can afford the resources to improve and maintain a higher level of health eg, regular and nutritious meals, jobs that provide good benefits like health insurance and workplace wellness programs. These benefits are extended to the children of more affluent people.

Finally, a child’s health and survival is tied to the income of their parents. If the parent dies prematurely from poor health regardless of income, then any potential financial legacy for the surviving spouse, children and grandchildren most likely dies too. Children who are raised in poverty and suffer poor health including due to hereditary factors, can find it difficult to leave their poverty stricken and disadvantaged neighborhoods. They may also find it hard to succeed in school or to get and keep a high-paying job and thus never leave these poor neighborhoods. They often repeat the same futile and vicious cycle when they have children of their own. Thus the cycle of childhood poverty, poor health and low income adulthood perpetuates and spans generations.

Poverty and poor health also impacts American Business because disadvantaged workers with poor health are at greater risk of illness. They are more likely to generate higher health care costs. Workers with health problems also tend to have increased rates of absenteeism and/ or often work while ill or injured. Therefore, American business owners and employers of low-income workers do so at double the price…they have higher healthcare expenses and diminished employee productivity.

So, this idea of health poor or good, impacting wealth or lack thereof, is real and has very far reaching and generational implications.


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