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February 13, 2008

Health Consequences of Declining Incomes—Reply

JAMA. 2008;299(6):633-634. doi:10.1001/jama.299.6.633-c

In Reply: I agree with Dr Muennig that education is a major determinant of health. It has been estimated that eliminating differences in mortality associated with education would avert 8 deaths for every life saved by medical advances.1 I also agree that the influence of education on health and socioeconomic status probably exceeds that of income. But income is hardly irrelevant; it has independent effects on health status and is interconnected with education as both a mediator and by-product. For example, economic hardship makes learning difficult for students; preoccupies parents and families with concerns other than their children's study habits; makes tuition unaffordable; and chokes off tax revenue and other resources for schools, teachers, and infrastructure. Income is also a by-product of education: it boosts earnings and provides the means to purchase the commodities of good health (eg, insurance coverage, health care, nutritious foods).