Lack of private health insurance increases risk of dying, study finds

Adults under the age of 65 who lacked private health insurance were 35 percent more likely to die between 1986 and 1995 than similar adults who had such insurance, according to a new study examining factors associated with mortality in the United States.

Previous studies have highlighted the effects of income and education on mortality and both of these factors also have important links to heath insurance, according to three sociology professors in Colorado, Texas and Florida.

Income reduced the risk of death because it is used to purchase health insurance and products and services used to promote health and prevent disease, the study found. Education reduced the risk of dying because it provides the knowledge needed to obtain insurance coverage, either private or governmental, and to know what the insurance covered and did not cover.

The result is one of many findings contained in "Living and Dying in the USA," by Richard G. Rogers of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Robert A. Hummer of the University of Texas at Austin and Charles B. Nam of Florida State University. The book was published by Academic Press in October.

The authors examined the National Health Interview Study, which is given to 120,000 different people each year. They then linked the responses of everyone aged 18 years old and over in the study to mortality data for each year during the nine-year study period.

The professors examined the links between mortality and an array of possible factors including attending religious services, race, gender, family composition, mental health, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, functional limitations and health insurance coverage.

The 35 percent health insurance figure "is even more disturbing when the number of uninsured individuals is considered: in 1986, almost 31 million individuals aged 18 to 64 lacked private health insurance," the study found. Young and middle-aged adults who used Medicare or Medicaid also w

Contact: Richard Rogers
University of Colorado at Boulder

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