Average life expectancy for residents of one Baltimore neighborhood, Seton Hill, is a staggering 19 years lower than life expectancy just a few miles away in the more affluent Roland Park (see map below).
SES-related health discrepancies are not unique to American cities; the phenomenon also exists in single-payer countries like Finland and Sweden, so universal healthcare doesn’t fix it. What is going on here?
Studies show that subjective SES may explain much of the relationship. In other words, how does an individual think he or she compares to others? If people feel respected and valued then they will view themselves as more important and this belief is one of the strongest predictors of lifespan.
For instance, studies show that supreme court justices live much longer than the average American. This job is nearly ideal for reaching a ripe old age as it is not physically demanding and everything you do is seen as important.
But, as Adam Smith points out, this type of perceived respect is not evenly distributed among the rich and poor. Perhaps importance inequality is just as insidious as income inequality. What can we do to redistribute importance?
2 thoughts on ““The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.” -Adam Smith”
This is staggering. The “importance inequality” in conjunction with the facts about Supreme Court Justices’ longevity reminds me of a theme of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”: pick a job you can do your entire life (and preferably, greatly enjoy) and that retirement is dangerous if it is directionless and void of purpose!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Very interesting. Is that theme in reference to King Lear himself? Doesn’t he essentially give up his kingdom over the course of the play? It doesn seem like being king is a job ideally suited for longevity…I was also reading that orchestra conductors display a similar phenomenon as they get to be super important well into their old age!