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Those making less than $24,000 per year suffer from much lower emotional and physical health, have poorer health habits, and have significantly less access to medical care -- all of which combine to drag down their overall Well-Being Index score. -- Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data document the severity of health disparities between low- and high-income Americans.At a time when more people are facing financial hardships as a result of the recession, Gallup finds a Well-Being Index composite score of 57.2 among those making less than $24,000 per year, which compares negatively with the 67.7 score among the middle class and the 74.3 score among high-income Americans.
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For more information on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, see page 2. Even when controlling for age, which is related to wellbeing, the Well-Being Index reveals that low-income Americans face more emotional and physical health problems, engage in fewer healthy behaviors, and have less access to basic medical care.
Gallup's analysis of health disparities across incomes is based on more than 200,000 surveys of American adults collected Jan. Gallup controlled for age and found that within each age group, the same pattern of wellbeing income differences exists.
Physical Health Problems More Prevalent Among Low-Income Americans Low-income Americans are more likely than their high-income counterparts to say they have been diagnosed with each of the chronic conditions Gallup asks about.
The differences are largest for depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes, with gaps of 18.7, 12.8, and 9.4 percentage points, respectively.
The high level of obesity among low-income Americans -- 32% are obese versus 21.7% of those with high incomes -- is likely a contributing factor in these differences.
Reports of colds and flu are also more common, and headaches are more than twice as likely among the low-income group as among high-income Americans.
Low-Income Americans Exercise Less, Eat Less Healthily, and Smoke More Healthy habits are strongly connected to physical health, and low-income Americans are less likely to practice healthy behaviors, underscoring the interconnectedness of different aspects of wellbeing.
Low-income Americans are less likely to report healthy eating and frequent exercise compared with those with higher incomes.
Smoking is nearly three times as common among low-income as among high-income Americans.
Access to Care Lacking for Low-Income Americans Low-income Americans face a "chicken-and-egg" problem: Preventive care, effective treatment, and health education could all help improve their health and wellbeing, but they are the group that can least afford and has the poorest access to basic health services.
One-third of low-income Americans are uninsured, and more than that say there have been times in the past 12 months when they didn't have enough money for healthcare.