Does Wealth Equal Health?

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In the past, it was generally acknowledged that the wealthy were fat and the poor were skinny. How much you ate was a simply a matter of your financial position in society. Poor people couldn’t afford extra food and they tended to burn a lot of calories working in manual labor jobs. Wealthy people typically had sedentary desk jobs, if they actually worked at all. They could afford to buy and consume mountains of calories. So money didn’t necessarily buy good health back then.

How times have changed… Today, the rich are often skinny and the poor are more likely to be fat. The reasons behind this are obvious. Wealthy people tend to be better educated about health and fitness, have more time to spend exercising, and have the disposable income to buy high quality, nutritious food. The underprivileged are stuck eating cheap, high calorie fast food that is lacking in nutrition and loaded with sodium and sugar. Combined with a lack of time for fitness, and it’s a recipe for disaster called obesity.

Historically, smoking and the use of tobacco products followed a similar path. The rich enjoyed tobacco because they had money, and smoking became an affectation of the upper class, while the poor generally couldn’t afford tobacco products. Today, the situation is reversed. Smoking is one of the few affordable vices left, even after the sin taxes that are levied on these products. The wealthy have mostly quit smoking and have much better health care.

It appears that nowadays, wealth equals health. Money affords better access to health care, better nutritional opportunities, and better exercise and fitness options. If you are struggling financially, counting calories is the last thing on your mind, and hitting the gym (if you can afford it) just isn’t a possibility after a long hard day at work. The gap between rich and poor is not just an economic one; there is a growing disparity in healthiness and lifespan as well.

So how do we solve this problem? What can be done to ensure that all Americans are able to live a healthy lifestyle? The obvious answer is money. Raising income across the board would result in better health for all. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that is a realistic option in today’s political climate. The key is education. Awareness of the dangers of obesity is at an all time high. Healthy, nutritious food options are more available than ever before. Small choices can lead to big results. We all need to help spread the word about the profound benefits of health and wellness.

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