Back in 2011, member countries of the World Health Organization, the WHO, came up with a plan to cut mortality from noncommunicable diseases 25 percent by the year 2025. The program was thus called the 25 X 25 Initiative. And it identified various health risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle. What the Initiative did not include as a risk factor for poor health was poverty.
An international team of researchers thus decided to look at poverty as a possible driver of noncommunicable illness. They pored over data from 48 previously published studies that included socioeconomic information. Together these studies include some 1.75 million subjects from seven high-income countries in the WHO. And the research team found that being poor was more dangerous than obesity or high alcohol intake. The study is in the journal The Lancet.
[Silvia Stringhini et al, Socioeconomic status and the 25 × 25 risk factors as determinants of premature mortality: a multicohort study and meta-analysis of 1·7 million men and women]
The results were reported in terms of years of life lost between the ages of 40 and 85. Being a current smoker was associated with 4.8 years of lost life, diabetes with 3.9 years and physical inactivity with 2.4 years. Being of low socioeconomic status was almost as bad as inactivity, with 2.1 years of lost life. High blood pressure only accounted for 1.6 years lost and high alcohol intake was good for—or bad for—0.5 years gone.
Because of these findings, the researchers wrote that the results “suggest that socioeconomic
Circumstances…should be treated as a target for local and global health strategies, health risk surveillance, interventions, and policy.” In other words, part of treating disease is treating poverty.
(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)