America's wealth gap has created an ever-increasing longevity gap


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When the discussion gets to changing the age of eligibility to receive Social Security or Medicare this age discrepancy looms large, and results in extremely subtle but real regressive taxation. Not only is the Social Security tax in the US only on the first $118,500 of income, but wealthier people live longer and so get to collect more of the benefit than poorer people. That flow of taxes seems be from lower income to higher.


Eh, there’s a major assumption that the years of 80-92 are an intrinsically positive good, and that ain’t necessarily so.

I’d rather focus on quality of life for those between the ages of 18-60 and then let the chips fall where they may once you’re in your golden years.


The better medical technology gets, the bigger the gap will be.


In my chemical pursuits, I’ve been reading up on environmental toxins like lead and cadmium. Mainly the Flint thing (plus my father’s decades of working as civil engineer in utility departments) is what got me interested. The numbers are staggering. Poor people live in the most contaminated housing, know the least about how to mitigate that contamination, drink the worst water, and eat the worst food (that last one has nothing to do with toxins.) Throw in worse access to healthcare and it comes as precisely zero surprise that they don’t live as long.


This has little to do with medical technology and a lot to do with life chances, benign things like housing, education, nutrition, leisure. The evidence is there.


And if access to medical technology and related factors is regulated by a factor less arbitrary than income, the gap disappears.


Exactly. Around here the cheapest houses are in an old mining district. It isn’t safe to grow vegatables, unless you plan to replace your and your neighbours’ topsoil down a depth of a couple of metres.

However, from the point of view of the rich, things are working out just as they would hope. And since very few politicians do not fall into that category, expect things to get worse.

[edit - as a result of a fair bit of experience in these things, nuclear power worries me many times less than coal. It’s an old trope, but except in countries where exhaust scrubbers are mandated and effective, if coal plants were regulated as are nuclear plants they’d be shut down due to their uranium emissions.]


And officer involved shootings.


This. I make it to 80 and I’m happy. In fact I think a lot of the medical community does to much to keep old people alive. I’ve had several experiences with grandparents who should have died years earlier, but nope can’t let that happen.


Except that you can bet that if people are dying younger, they are also sicker and more physically broken down during their lives. It’s not the only indicator, but it;s one that holds a world of other indicators within it.


I’m sure there are many factors affecting the longevity gap.

My hypothesis with regard to new medical technology centers around the ideas that the newest technologies are the most expensive, slower to be adopted by payor systems, and faster to be adopted at the most advanced medical facilities (which tend to serve a disproportionate share of the rich).


Was it Bruce Sterling wrote a novel about a wealthy woman who is the first to actually reach the point of immortality due to the march of technology - and meanwhile the young will never be able to afford the treatments?


Holy Fire


My father is over 90. He occasionally complains that he doesn’t know why the medical profession keeps him alive but actually his quality of life has been better for the last five years than the previous ten. Unless you have something that is going to kill you or incapacitate you with a high degree of certainty, it’s unwise to be too dogmatic.
A friend of my wife’s was expected to die before the end of last year from cancer. Now they’re about to put her on a trial of a new treatment which apparently has a high chance of success, maybe for years. Again, when it comes to life expectancy, YMMV.


I think a lot of people have positives come out of medical help, but I’ve seen three different grandparents end up in old folks homes and anything that might have the slightest chance of hurting them was immediately solved with whatever means was necessary. I know it’s harsh to say, but those people were not the grandparents I remember. My grandfather had dementia and you were lucky if he knew who you were, similar with both of my wife’s grandmothers (who had alzheimer’s). Looking back is always 20/20. With my grandfather 80 years ago he would have thrown a clot a few years before his dementia started and died peacefully in his sleep (at least that’s what we hope, right?) - but thanks to modern medicine we fixed that problem only to end up with 7 more years of life…5 of that barely knowing anyone. It was hard on my dad in many ways, I’m not sure if it had been better for him to pass away suddenly or not. I just know I don’t want to be that burden on my children.




My grandmother had dementia and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy; fortunately I have enough knowledge of biochemistry that if I look like going the same way I’m going to be able to kill myself painlessly. But that doesn’t invalidate my basic point that setting arbitrary limits on life expectancy is pretty meaningless. Some people are decrepit at 50, some still playing tennis at 85. That’s partly due to the wealth gap but also partly genetic.


Then fill out a medical power of attorney document and make sure the person/people you name know what your preferences are.