Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in U.S.: study

Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., a rich democracy that has a poverty rate far higher than its peers, according to a new research.

The study, published on Monday by the University of California, linked an estimated 183,000 deaths to poverty among people aged 15 and above in 2019.

It was a conservative estimate as it preceded the COVID-19 pandemic, the research added.

People dying as a result of poverty are only fewer than those killed by heart disease, smoking and cancer, while deaths associated with obesity, diabetes, drug overdoses, suicides, firearms and homicides are all outnumbered by those related to poverty, according to the analysis.

"Poverty silently killed 10 times as many people as all the homicides in 2019. And yet, homicide firearms and suicide get vastly more attention," David Brady, the study's lead author and a professor of public policy at the university, said in a news release.

Poor Americans, whose incomes are less than 50 percent of the U.S. median income, die at a far higher rate than their richer counterparts after they turn 40, the study said. 

According to official data, the median household income in the U.S. was $70,784 in 2021.

"If we had less poverty, there'd be a lot better health and well-being, people could work more, and they could be more productive," Brady said. "All of those are benefits of investing in people through social policies."

(Cover: Residents of a homeless encampment prepare to move their belongings as workers from the city prepare to clean up the area in a city sweep, September 22, 2022 in New York City, U.S. /CFP)

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