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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
A loss of wealth among older adults is associated with an increased risk of death, suggests an insightful study about health disparities recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Specifically, the study finds among U.S. adults ages 51 or older a significant loss of wealth during a two-year period is associated with an increased risk of death, or all-cause mortality.
The study also suggests the risk of death differs significantly between middle age and older adults depending on whether they maintain or lose prior wealth. For example, the study finds about 30.6 deaths occur (per 1000-person years) among adults after age 51 who retain their wealth. In contrast, there are about 65 deaths (per 1000-person years) among adults after age 51 who lose a significant portion of their wealth within a two-year period.
Incidentally, the study's six authors report there are about 73 deaths (per 1000-person-years) among the older Americans who were impoverished throughout the study's duration.
The study's findings are based on the Health and Retirement study, a nationally representative assessment of 8,714 U.S. adults 51 years and older. The findings encompass participating adults born from 1931 to 1941 - with extensive follow ups through 2014. Hence, the study's findings may be generalizable to middle age and older Americans.
The authors suggest an array of explanations for the study's overall findings. For example, the authors explain the stress of lost wealth may produce physiological changes, such as a short-term rise in blood pressure and inflammation, which, in turn, can increase the risk of death from heart ailments.
The authors explain the stress of lost wealth also may result in psychosocial stress. The authors write (and we quote): 'experimental research has shown brain region activation following a negative wealth shock, which may contribute to the higher risk of mental health conditions and substance abuse found in observational research' (end of quote).
However, the authors explain the study was confined to the risk of death rather than its underlying causes. As a result, the authors conclude: (and we quote): 'further research is needed to better understand the possible mechanisms for this association and determine whether there is potential value for targeted interventions' (end of quote).
While income has long been seen as a social determinant of health (as the current findings attest), we suggest the study proposes a new wealth and health dimension — regarding how changes in wealth may impact health disparities among middle aged and senior citizens.
Meanwhile, an introduction to the insightful field of health disparities (from the National Institutes of Health) is available within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page.
The Rural Health Information Hub provides especially interesting information about health disparities in U.S. rural areas within the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page.
Links to the latest journal research articles about health disparities are available in the 'journal articles' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page. Links to pertinent clinical trials that may be occurring in your area also are available in the 'clinical trials' section.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page, please type 'health disparities' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'health disparities (National Library of Medicine).'
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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!