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Bad Habits Explain Class Differences in Health: Study
Date:3/23/2010

Higher death rates for poor tied to more smoking, poorer diets and lack of exercise ,,

TUESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Unhealthy behaviors -- including higher rates of smoking, poor diets and lack of exercise -- can explain almost three-fourths of the higher death rate among people of lower socioeconomic standing, a new study suggests.

Public health experts have known for decades that poorer people are more likely to die from most causes than the more affluent, explained James Dunn, an associate professor of applied public health at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

"That includes suicide, accidents, injuries, poisonings, most cancers, heart disease, strokes, infectious disease -- almost everything that kills us and makes us sick," said Dunn, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study in the March 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What's been up for debate has been the reason why. Some experts blame bad behavior while others blame stressors associated with poverty, such as a lack of control over jobs and housing, fear of violence in neighborhoods or higher exposure to pollutants.

In the study, researchers from France analyzed 24 years of data from the British Whitehall II longitudinal study, which has tracked more than 10,000 British government workers aged 35 to 55 since 1985. Civil servants were divided into three groups based on their job classification: high (administrative), intermediate (professional or executive) and low (clerical or support staff).

Health behaviors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and physical activity, were assessed at four points. At the outset, those in the lower socioeconomic rank were more likely to smoke than those in the highest rank (30 percent vs. 10 percent); be physically inactive (35 percent vs. 7 percent) and eat an unhealthy diet (15 percent vs. 6 percent). Those of lower rank were more l
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