Poverty worse for health than alcoholism - study

A new study published in The Lancet has found people who are poor are likely to die sooner than alcoholics or those who are obese.

The European study of 1.7 million people over the age of 40 was the first to compare low socio-economic status with other major risk factors in health.

Predictably, smoking and diabetes are the worst offenders - reducing life expectancy by 4.8 and 3.9 years respectively. Being poor shortened life expectancy by 2.1 years.

But what's interesting is the study found being poor is worse for you than obesity and high alcohol consumption.

"Yes you've got a high chance of dying earlier if you've got low income or low education. Likewise if you're obese or drink lots of alcohol - but those things tend to move together," says Professor Tony Blakely.

The research included data from 48 studies and used a person's job title to estimate their socioeconomic status.

On the street, Newshub met Jonathan, who says he's a perfect example of why being poor is worse for his health.

He was in far better health earning good money as a banker, but since overcoming a brain tumour has been on a benefit and finds it harder to maintain his health.

"If you've got more money you give yourself more choice to invest in your longevity," he says.

The study's lead author says governments should accept socioeconomic status as a major risk factor and stop excluding it from health policy.

Researchers say reducing poverty and improving education will help keep more poor people from an early grave.