NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 13, 2005

Billionaires are killed by the same unglamorous things that kill the rest of us: diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, kidney failure and others. The only difference is they may live a little longer.

  • The average age of death for the 20 billionaires featured in the 2004 and 2005 "In Memoriam" sections of the annual Forbes Billionaires list was 78.
  • Forbes compared this number with the average male life expectancy in the United States, since all but one of the 20 billionaires on our list that died were males: the billionaires lived 3.5 years longer than average American males.
  • The results would be even more dramatic if the average life expectancies from around the world were taken into account, since the billionaires on the list are of all different nationalities.

The rich not only tend to live longer, but are healthier as well. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 23 percent of people below the poverty threshold, defined as "poor," are limited by chronic disease, whereas only 10 percent of "non-poor," those with an income 200 percent or greater than the poverty threshold, are.

Since most of what kills Americans today is chronic disease, health literacy may, in fact, be a key to longevity. Understanding and monitoring risk factors for the major conditions that predispose us to death -- heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure -- requires a considerable amount of awareness, discipline and foresight, say observers.

Source: Vanessa Gisquet, "Why Billionaires Live Longer," Forbes, April 6, 2005.

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