Age and Social Divisions

[My posts have been scarce for the last two weeks as I’m involved in opening an office for my insurance practice serving Las Vegas and San Bernardino County, California.]

There is no physical relationship between number of laps around the sun and how long we live. Obviously, our bodies incur wear and tear from living, and those who are doers (as opposed to sitters) have the scars to show for it. However, we don’t know for sure how much incremental damage we can sustain and continue. We don’t know for sure just how long we can live.

The longest lived person documented to date is Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. Have you saved enough for your senior years?

However, if we discount the advent of new epidemics, current research indicates that we will start to achieve 130 years of age in this century, and could go for 150 years.(1)

Admittedly, I’m skeptical. Mother Nature is fully capable of throwing things at us that will turn life expectancy calculations upside down. Further, the unwillingness of many to take even minimal safety precautions for COVID-19 is tantamount to suicide. Suicide is a growing issue in the US.

However, not everyone will have the chance for a long life, at least not in the US. We know that life expectancy varies massively from one region to another within the US based on factors including lifestyle and access to healthcare. If you live along the California coast, in Colorado or in the New York metro area, you win. If you live in the Southeastern US (excluding the Miami area) or in parts of South Dakota, you lose.(2) And that was before COVID-19, which is turning Missouri into a disaster to match Arkansas.

NBC News, 2017

According to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHQR), the best states on all measures of healthcare quality are:

New Hampshire
North Dakota
Rhode Island

The worse states according to the AHQR are:

California (cities are excellent rural areas not so much)
Florida (Miami is good, rest of state not so much)
Nevada (Las Vegas is good, rest of state not so much)
New Mexico
Texas (again, urban centers have quality care, rest of state not)

Note the heavy but not perfect overlap between low quality and low life expectancy. Lifestyle is a factor. Kentucky and West Virginia aren’t on the list of for low quality healthcare, but Kentucky, Arkansas and West Virginia have the greatest incidence of people who smoke in the US.(5)

However, not everyone even in the poor states loses. A hospital in St. Louis caused some uproar years ago by opening a wing dedicated to care for the wealthy. More recently, Rex Weiner has written about how the wealthy get to “jump the line” for innovative and rare medical treatments while other patients have to wait, and sometimes die waiting.(3)

“If rich people had to wait for an MRI like everyone else,” one doctor told me, “the American healthcare system would be changed overnight.”

Rex Weiner

I’m sure the Walton family (Walmart heirs) obtain medical care to which very few others in Arkansas have access.

The fundamental point is that the rich in the US get the best medical care and have the best change for a long life. That is probably also true in most other countries, but to less of an extreme than in the US.

The US has the greatest inequality in income among industrialized nations. In the US, the top 20% of households absorb 52% of annual personal income. Economic inequality is much worse in the US than in any of the other G7 nations (UK, Italy, Japan, Canada, Germany and France).(4)

So, much like the chance to live on Mars, the chance for a long life in the US is being limited to the few with the personal resources to pay for better healthcare.


    Published July11, 2017.

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