Wealth equals health

According to United States Census Bureau statistics, income disparity expanded to its widest divide in 2011; currently, nearly half of Americans are near or beneath the poverty line.

The impact levied by such income disparity penetrates deeper than the pocketbook, however. It also affects physical well-being.

The concept of the “longevity gap” isn't new, but a story published earlier this month in The New York Times highlighted its troublesome reality. As detailed by data mapped by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, it appears there's a true cause-and-effect relationship between wealth and health.

Specifically, take Fairfax County, Va., an affluent community where men have a life expectancy of 82 years, and women live to be about 85. In contrast, McDowell County, W.Va., located approximately an eight-hour drive away, is a much poorer area (its median income is approximately one-fifth of Fairfax's), where smoking, drug use, obesity rates and unemployment are high, and the life expectancy is low: 64 years for men, 73 for women.

In Sacramento County, approximately 16.7 percent of the population is at or below the poverty line, according to the most recent census data. How does our life expectancy stack up against Ventura County, where the poverty rate is only 11.9 percent?

Or, closer to home, how does it compare to the neighboring Placer County (which includes one of the state's wealthiest enclaves, Granite Bay), where only 9.1 percent of the population is at or below the poverty line?

Visit http://viz.healthmetricsandevaluation.org/us-health-map for the answers as well as other eye-opening numbers.