Living in poor communities, dying from heart disease

People in counties with worse economies post-recession are more likely to die from heart disease.

Communities in the United States that experienced the most economic distress in the wake of the Great Recession saw a significant increase in death rates from heart disease and strokes among middle-aged people, according to a new multi-institution study led by researchers at Penn Medicine. While the death rates remained nearly unchanged in counties with the least economic distress (62.6 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010; 61.5 in 2015), areas experiencing worsening economic trends—such as high unemployment, lower median incomes, and lack of affordable housing—saw a sharp increase, from 122 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 127.6 deaths in 2015.

Doctore checks someone's blood pressure in an office with windows and city in background

Authors say the findings underscore how economic disparities contribute directly to health disparities.

“Our study shows that large economic trends—whether it’s a significant reduction in employment or a recession—have a real impact on communities and on the cardiovascular health of people living in those communities,” says the study’s lead author Sameed Khatana, a cardiovascular medicine fellow at Penn Medicine. “It’s important that policymakers, physicians, and even patients are aware of this increase in mortality rates. Interventions, such as policies like a health insurance expansion, may help slow this trend or even reverse it.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.