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Death a Little Easier on the Rich

Wealthy suffer less in final months than poor, study finds

THURSDAY, July 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Money may not buy happiness, but it might make dying less troublesome.

Elderly Americans with more money are less likely than their poorer counterparts to suffer pain at the end of their lives, according to a University of Michigan study to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Palliative Care.

Compared with the less affluent, wealthier old Americans "may have greater access to goods and services above and beyond what insurance provides, and to social support from family and friends," study author and University of Michigan research scientist Maria Silveira said in a prepared statement. "They may also reside in settings with better quality of care."

The study of more than 2,600 men and women aged 70 and older found that those with a net worth of $70,000 or more were 30 percent less likely than poorer people to have frequently suffered pain during their final year of life.

This difference held true even after the researchers adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, education and medical diagnosis.

Elderly people with more money also suffered fewer symptoms overall. Those in the wealthiest half were less likely to suffer depression and shortness of breath.

However, both rich and poor elderly people suffered more than expected in their last year of life, the study authors said.

"Regardless of wealth, older Americans carry an unacceptable burden of suffering in their last year of life," Silveira said.

"The older adults we studied who lived in the community suffered as much in their last year of life as do younger people who are severely ill and hospitalized," she said.

More information

The American College of Physicians has more about dying.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, July 5, 2005
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