Economic inequality, structural racism fuel increasing survival gap in US, says study

It seems health and wealth are inherently linked in the United States. According to a new study, wealthy Americans are likely to live up to 15 years longer than their poor peers.A five-paper series published recently in the British medical journal The Lancet has found that the increasing survival gap in the U.S. is a result of America’s growing economic inequality, racial segregation, mass incarceration and fractured health system.

As per the journal, the widening income gap between the rich and the poor, accompanied by structural racism and mass incarceration, feeds the growing health inequalities that the U.S. healthcare system only helps aggravate. To address the growing inequalities in the country, the series highlights the need for broader initiatives to address racism and major health reforms.

“Today, 43 million Americans are poor, and although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has nearly halved the number of people without insurance, 29 million Americans, many of them poor or near-poor, remain uninsured,” said series lead author Dr. David Himmelstein from the City University of New York School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College. As per Himmelstein, to tackle the growing health inequalities, it is essential to move towards a non-market financing system that is aimed at treating healthcare as a human right.

The journal also highlighted the fact that despite coverage by the ACA, as compared to wealthy Americans, their poor counterparts have worse access to healthcare. The main findings of thestudy are:

1. Rise in inequality: According to the five-paper series, as the nation witnesses a rise in top incomes, so has extreme poverty. The number of people living in extreme poverty (household with income less than $2 per person per day) has more than doubled since the 1990s. While the share of healthcare resources devoted to caring for the wealthy has risen, this inequality has given rise to low-income Americans with worse access to public health.The study also focuses on the effect of racialized economic segregation and structural racism on public health.

2. Increasein massincarcerations:Given the high number of incarcerations in the U.S. jails, there are high chances that it disproportionately affects the African American communities where one in three black men will be imprisoned in their lifetime, that is, nearly six times the rate of white men. The study said that as U.S imprisons many more of its citizens, mass incarceration might have contributed to the nation’s lagging performance on health indicators such as life expectancy.

3. Rising poverty: As per the study, since the 1970s with bare minimum changes in the income of poor and middle-income Americans, poverty has emerged as an increasingly important risk factor for mortality in U.S.adults. It highlighted that due to an increase in the survival gap, while wealthy Americans witnessed an increase in life expectancy between 35 and 75 years of age, the poor men did not witness any change in health while poor women witnessed a decline in health, as measured by both income and level of education.

Need for a universal health program

As per the British journal, the life expectancy of the wealthiest Americans that now exceeds the poorest by 10 to 15 years continues to grow. Several such topics were discussed as part of the five-paper series called “America: Equity and Equality in Health.” The series also includes new data and analysis by prominent U.S. health researchers, along with a special commentary by Senator Bernie Sanders.

Commenting on the issue, Sanders emphasized the link between economic inequality and health outcomes and stressed on an urgent need for a universal health program that covers all Americans. He said that although the U.S. has the most expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic healthcare system in the world, Medicare for all would help save hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs by eliminating private health insurers’ profit and overhead costs.

Road to recovery

As the study presents a poor state of affairs regarding overall health care in the U.S., the condition of people seeking mental health care is even worse. The country is in the throes of a mental health crisis. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2015, there were over 43 million people aged 18 years or older in the country – representing about 18 percent of all adult population — with any mental illness (AMI) within the previous year.

If you or a loved one is grappling with any kind of mental health illnesses, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help you find one of the best mental health facilities in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our representatives to know the finest mental health rehabilitation centers near you.