Study links income to heart disease in younger adults

Maricruz Casares
Enero 9, 2019

Individuals with volatile income have higher risk of suffering from heart events such as stroke and heart attack. "While this study is observational in nature and certainly not an evaluation of such programs, our results do highlight that large negative changes in income may be detrimental to heart health and may contribute to premature death", said Tali Elfassy, an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Florida, Science Daily reports.

Similarly, the study found that the biggest fluctuations in personal income were associated with almost double the risk of death compared to a similar group of people with less fluctuation in personal income. They measured income volatility as the percent change in income from one measurement to the next, and income drop as a decrease of 25 percent or more from the previous assessment.

The study found a significant association with the biggest fluctuations in personal income and more than double the risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure or death during the following 10 years.

The study only found an association and couldn't prove that income fluctuations caused health issues. Low income has also been tied to poorer heart health since people with low or unstable incomes tend to have unhealthy lifestyle.

Stressful events may contribute to obesity, a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease.

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Lead author Assistant Professor Dr Tali Elfassy at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida said in the U.S. the recent rise in income inequality suggests that a larger proportion of the population faces poverty and economic difficulties.

"Another potential limitation of this paper is we haven't really explored mechanisms of action, we are really looking at income and not how this process of income fluctuation translated into health outcomes, we are not looking at the biological mechanism there", Elfassy continued. "Future studies focused on understanding mechanisms underlying the association between income volatility with CVD and mortality are warranted", the researchers wrote in their study.

Overall, about one in four deaths in the United States results from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The participants who took part in the research were aged 23-35 years old in 1990 when the study initially kickstarted.

High income volatility (defined by an individual's standard deviation of change from 1990-2005) was associated with a higher risk of death (HR 1.78, 95% CI 1.03-3.09) and of cardiovascular disease (HR 2.07, 95% CI 1.10-3.90) than low volatility, reported Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, PhD, of the University of Miami, and colleagues in Circulation.

Income volatility may affect behavior, access to medical care, and psychological stress, the researchers noted.

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