NEW YORK, June 18 (UPI) -- Poverty, lack of education and poor social support contribute to as many U.S. deaths as heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer, researchers say.
Dr. Sandro Galea of the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York and colleagues estimated the number of U.S. deaths attributable to social factors using a systematic review of the available literature combined with statistics data.
The researchers calculated for the relative risks of mortality from social factors of education, poverty, health insurance status, employment status and job stress, social support, racism or discrimination, housing conditions and early childhood stressors, the researchers obtained prevalence estimates for each social factor using U.S. Census Bureau data.
The researchers found that about 245,000 U.S. deaths in the United States in 2000 were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality and 39,000 to area-level poverty.
Overall, 4.5 percent of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty, but the risks associated with both poverty and low education were higher for individuals age 25-64 than for those 65 or older with qualified for Social Security and Medicare.
"The number of deaths the researchers calculated as attributable to low education -- 245,000 -- is comparable to the number caused by heart attacks -- 192,898 -- which was the leading cause of U.S. deaths in 2000," Galea said in a statement.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.