As the recession drags on, are we going to see the dead bodies of homeless people lying about in the streets (a vision one would have once expected to see only in a third-world country like India)? Even if you have a roof over your head, your socioeconomic status can affect your life expectancy.

It turns out that people 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 (and readers of this website know that there are genetic reasons for this).

Researcher Steven H. Woolf and his colleagues analyzed census data and vital statistics from Virginia counties and cities between 1990 and 2006 and found that one out of four deaths would have been prevented 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 prevented.

Woolf says, “It’s tempting to assume that our findings are based on how much money people make, but areas with high household incomes also tend to have better schools, a different racial and social mix and healthier community conditions.

“Virginia is an excellent place to explore the connection between health and median household income. There are communities in Northern Virginia with some of the highest incomes in the nation and there are areas of the state, such as the Appalachian Southwest, Southside, the Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore, with high poverty and low high school graduation rates.” And 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.

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