It is a sad fact of socioeconomics that the wealthy tend to lead healthier, longer lives than do the poor.
Now scientists have gone a step further, finding a specific hormone that links wealth with a longer life. The hormone is called DHEAS–or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate–a natural steroid produced by the brain, adrenal glands and sexual organs.
Those with higher levels of DHEAS tend to exercise more, have more hobbies and have closer relationships with friends and family. They also tend to live longer.
Researchers from the University College London, working on the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, studied thousands of people over the age of 50 and found that wealthier people had higher levels of DHEAS.
They also found higher levels of a second hormone–growth factor I (IGF-I)–in those who are wealthier. The two hormones help regulate the body and control reactions to stress.
"A striking new finding is that the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate [DHEAS] that predicts life expectancy also follows a social gradient: less wealth, lower levels of DHEAS," said Professor Michael Marmot of the university’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.
The implication is that wealth brings freedom and time to eat well, exercise, enjoy various past times and stay closer to family and friends.
To some, this might seem like another case where money is destiny. Once again the rich seem to be winning the race and widening the gap, not just in financial terms but also in the far more important measure of life expectancy.
But ultimately the report could be good news for rich and poor alike. If DHEAS can be artificially produced in the future–and if its anti-aging properties are real–it could be more widely distributed.