At a time in history when the divide between the wealthy and poor is growing wider than ever before there is often tragic denial of the fact that that many dimension of health are dependent on economic opportunities. Massachusetts General Hospital reported via EurekAlert on Dec. 21, 2015, there may be a significant effect on health behaviors and risks with economic opportunity. The researchers have found that the prospect that people may have the opportunity to improve their economic status may have a significant impact on the health of a community.
The researchers have found that mortality rates were increased and that risk factors like smoking and obesity and the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension were higher in areas with the least levels of economic opportunity. Atheendar Venkataramani, MD, PhD, of the MGH Division of General Medicine and lead author of the report says there has been increasing concern in this era that economic opportunity is not available to everyone in the United States. This represents a very serious problem in view of the fact that economic opportunity is a primary component of the American Dream.
Dr. Venkataramani says he and his research team have found that people who are residing in areas with lower economic opportunity generally had poorer health behaviors, worse health overall and were more likely to die at a younger age. This clearly implies that economic opportunity is vital for economic well being and good health. The data from the study showed strong associations between regions of low economic opportunity and higher mortality rates. There was a higher prevalence of obesity, smoking, hypertension and diabetes in lower economic opportunity regions.
This study has been published in the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers wanted to determine whether or not economic opportunity had an independent association with health behaviors and outcomes in the United States. They concluded that economic opportunity serves as a significant independent predictor of health. Dr. Venkataramani says economic opportunity could influence health because people who are healthy get and keep better jobs and better incomes.
When it seems impossible to improve incomes people may lose a vital motivating force to maintain healthy behaviors. Also it appears decreased economic opportunities may certainly lead to increased despair which may lead to poor health behaviors. It certainly seems that any humane society would therefore make it a priority to increase economic opportunity for as many people as possible in order to promote good health for the citizens of the country.