"Most of the ways we can extend our lives have little to do with pills or even with the health care system. High school dropouts, for example, have average life expectancies about a dozen years shorter than individuals with advanced degrees. A landmark study that linked IRS tax records to death records from the Social Security Administration found that men in the top 1% of income live 14.6 years longer than those in the lowest 1%. For women the difference was 10.1 years. And the effects of income on life expectancy systematically increased between 2001 and 2014.
Perhaps such indicators are why guidance from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology was recently revised to place much stronger emphasis on lifestyle and social determinants of health.
It would be wonderful if a pill could wipe away big threats to our health. But to achieve that goal, we need more than medicine."
Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., is a faculty member at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, a former associate director of the National Institutes of Health, former chief science officer for the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and author of “More than Medicine: The Broken Promise of American Health” (Harvard University Press, 2019).
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