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Surprising Science

Health and Wealth

The poor face a greater health burden than smokers or the obese according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“The average low-income person loses 8.2 years of perfect health, the average high school dropout loses 5.1 years, and the obese lose 4.2 years, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Tobacco control has long been one of the most important public health policies, and rightly so; the average smoker loses 6.6 years of perfect health to their habit. But the nation’s huge high school dropout rate and poverty rates are typically not seen as health problems. This new study published in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, shows that poverty and dropout rates are at least as important a health problem as smoking in the United States. These researchers define ‘low-income’ as household earnings below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, or roughly the bottom third of the U.S. population.”


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