Aging and Poverty: Longevity and Wealth

So I e-mailed a group of my more thoughtful and opinionated friends the following link:

DNA test links ageing and poverty: Scientists in Glasgow develop a new test of the ageing process, which confirms it is linked to social factors.

They responded to the article back and forth in typical jesting fashion (see below). These are my abridged thoughts:

I’d like to add my psychoanalytic interpretation: In the American capitalist culture, wealth and materialism are some of the most prized values. The failure to achieve success in their acquisition, as typified by the vast majority of people, may be the cause of the depression and anxiety we identify as being so prevalent.

Think about it: If you existed in a culture where the value of a person was measured in terms of wealth and material possessions, and you lacked these things, what would that do to an individual’s psyche? My guess: it would result in a profound neurosis, something like the collapse of the ego, due to the failures to live up to these societal indicators of value. The duress of this failure would undoubtedly cause a physical stress to manifest in all sorts of ailments.

Of course, our society doesn’t only see the value of a person in wealth and material accumulation, but mainstream media and pop-culture definitely over inflate how important these values should be perceived. Depending on your cultural influences, anything could cause a neurosis like depression if you were to fail to live up to a societal standard of value and success. Most other cultures value family, community, altruism, intelligence, religion, etc. In some parts of China culture academics seems to be the trump value, in South American cultures we find family, in Middle Eastern cultures we find piety and devotion. The list goes on. Failure to live up to these values in their respective culture would be a major blow to the ego.

My point is this: in a culture that emphasizes values such as wealth that inherently operate as a result of scarcity, it’s no wonder we have so much ‘mental illness’ such as anxiety and depression. It is impossible for everyone to possess a value that by definition is reserved for few. Yet, capitalism relies on our desire to live out this fantasy in order to consume and possess by any means possible, even if it means selling ourselves as slaves to debt.

The remedy exists in realizing that these values are culturally dictated and that your value as a person can and should be self-generated and dictated from within; and this is by no means an easy task. We navigate our world through symbols and the symbolic meanings attached to them are typically inherited from our culture: community, family, peer group, etc. It’s extremely difficult to overcome this conditioning, and I’d say that only the most genius in a society ever successfully create a system of values and meanings that are original to them and them alone.

I’ll end by saying that stress is a major cause of physical aging. The more money one has, the less one has to worry about. You may argue that accumulating that wealth may cause even greater stress, but I’d defer to a Bible verse to counter: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Now, I’m not a religious person, but I mine for wisdom where I can find it. Having money and loving money are two different animals in my book. If you can accumulate money without getting absorbed in a romance with it, I believe you will not only live longer, but you will live happier!


Me: I saw this story on the BBC News iPhone App and thought you should see it.

** DNA test links ageing and poverty **
Scientists in Glasgow develop a new test of the ageing process, which confirms it is linked to social factors. >

C: Is it comforting that all our greed may be good for our health?
Good thing we’re all going to make gratuitous quantities of G’s.

R: Socioeconomic status effects health, money is a component of SES, but it is not its entirety. There are a host of other factors beyond money that effect health. as they mentioned food and social status. Similarly, this is not a more is better phenomenon. There is a threshold were making more money may actually be harmful to health and damage your DNA and telomeres b/c of stress and other factors. So, Congreedy, Greed is not good for health. If you have a soul, greed will stress you out and leave you feeling empty.

C: I totally agree broski, hence the usage of the word “greed” and the negative connotation it carries. I was exaggerating for the hilariousness of it. It is certainly not a “more is better” phenomenon. However, compared to its other factors, I think that money has such a preponderant influence on socioeconomic status that it is borderline silly to separate them in the way you are suggesting. It might sound ignorant, but I think that the other “host,” of factors are, for this discussion, trivial and are influenced more by money than anything else. I agree with your conclusion though.

However, I would cede that we probably disagree on the level of wealth that one can accumulate and still benefit from. Lately I seem to notice a lot more people bashing relatively wealthy people, calling them “greedy,” “corrupt,” “conniving,” whatever. Honestly, I think wealthiness receives a bad reputation that springs from jealously (not necessarily from you) and misunderstanding. The richest people I meet–and I met a lot this summer–are the nicest (whether contrived or not) and to be honest, their kids are usually happier, smarter, and nicer. I grant that the i-banker personality that tries to accumulate wealth to the exclusion of everything else in life will be unhappy, but people with this personality are in the minority.

My perspective really transformed this summer. Try to ignore the stories about how mean and arrogant rich people are, and try to think about specific examples. For me, these people and their families are happier, nicer and seem to enjoy life more than the poorer people/families I know–hence they live longer. Do you agree?

Cliffnotes: 1. Money is the #1 factor in determining socioeconomic status. 2. The stereotypes surrounding wealthy people are BS.
I forgot how much I miss these discussions.

R: I agree with your second premise. However, I disagree with your first premise. If SES meant Money and other “trace factors that do not really matter” sociologist and social scientists would instead say Money. SES is influenced by money that is undeniable, however to generalize and say that it is entirely represented by mostly money results from a parochial and unenlightened perspective. The point is that Money in no way can buy you SES, Happiness or any of the things that I think you believe it can by.

Think about it, Depression rates in western industrialized nations (Aka the Rich ones) are astronomic compared to third world countries. Cited (

So, C, its about lifestyle, education, quality of life, enjoyment, free time, happiness and money. You dont need a TON of money for any of this, you need creativity, intellect and an imagination. For instance, one can educate themselves, as long as they value education it doesnt require a 200,000 Harvard Degree. Especially with the internet, just take a look at apples online university, khan academy, or any other website. The knowledge is out there its up to us to have the thirst. Next lifestyle, this to does not require a ton of money, you want to work out, eat right, and sleep, nope not a ridiculous amount of money needed for any of these things. Now obviously money is a component of all of these things. But how big of a component? But I would wager 30,000-50,000 an extremely low amount, may even still be considered a superfluous amount of money for even a single individual to live happily and satisfyingly. I agree that “we probably disagree on the level of wealth that one can accumulate and still benefit from.” I guess you need to buy the rolex watch to discover that the watch on my cellphone works just as well if not better than your overpriced role. I understand that it is an image thing and I too am sucked in by advertisments and brandnames as we all are…. but I guess you may be sucked in a bit more and therefore desire more money to obtain those things that are higher priced?

-I cannot wait for the coterie of contemporary sophistication to reunite in Nashvegas.

C: Dude. Socioeconomic status is predominantly influence by money. Lifestyle, education, free time etc. is all correlated with money. Those in the “higher status” jobs that require an extensive education generally make more money, and also sit higher on the socioeconomic status ladder (okay, joe plumber who owns his own blue-collared plumbing business might make more than most physicians or other people in “high status occupations,” and won’t associate with them, but this is an exception). I knew you were going to drop the “unenlightened” view, which is why i suggested that you would find my premise “ignorant,” but it really is not. Take people higher up on the socioeconomic status ladder and analyze them. They make more money than those on the bottom. That’s just the way it is. Money = freedom and access to the vacations, culture, education, and communities that those associated with a higher socioeconomic status enjoy. High schoolers at elite boarding schools come from rich families higher up on the socioeconomic scale. They enjoy more support than poorer children, attend elite universities, graduate and make $$$$$ which allows them to engage in a lifestyle that is associated with higher socioeconomic status. If you were making $30,000 and trying to raise a family of four, life would suck.

I understand that socioeconomic status is made up of components other than income, and I certainly agree that money can’t buy happiness, (that cliche was drilled into our heads as 4 year olds) but I find the “unenlightened perspective” to be one that adheres to idealistic cliches and ignores hard facts: income is the number one determinant of ones socioeconomic status. I’m not suggesting that this is good or bad, I’m simply stating that if you were to plot an individual on the socioeconomic scale and had to ask one question, it would be how much money he/she/it makes.

As for your link, in my mind, it doesn’t prove anything except that Doctors overdiagnose the heck out of us. People in undeveloped countries can’t even stop to consider what depression is because they are worried about if they’ll get shot by the opposition rebels or if they’ll have enough money to eat. It is a comparative luxury to worry about if one is depressed or not. Combine this luxury with trigger-happy doctors and we have the reason for that statistic. People all over the world are depressed, whether that could be diagnosed or included in this statistic is a different matter.

Lastly and perhaps most pertinent, the results analyzed in this article stress the importance of income most. The “Glasgow researchers found that, over a 10-year period, telomeres shortened by an average of 7.7% in people whose household income was below £25,000. For those on higher incomes, the shortening averaged 0.6%.”

Other factors were related to this result.

4 thoughts on “Aging and Poverty: Longevity and Wealth”

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