Chronic inflammation and poverty are a ‘double whammy’ for mortality risk

A graphic depicting a translucent view of a human chest in blue colors with the heart and arteries highlighted in red

The combined conditions worsen mortality more than expected

A new study led by a University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions researcher finds that people with chronic inflammation living in poverty have more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and nearly triple the risk of dying from cancer within the next 15 years. The findings are based on data representing 95 million Americans ages 40 and over.

While chronic inflammation and poverty are each known to increase mortality risk, when combined, the two factors appear to have a synergistic effect, producing a greater increase in risk than if the individual effects of the two factors were merely added together, the study authors say. Their findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

“There is a lot of existing evidence that chronic inflammation can lead to disease,” said lead author Arch Mainous III, Ph.D., a professor in the department of health services research, management and policy in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and vice chair for research in the UF College of Medicine’s department of community health and family medicine. “We became interested in the potential interplay of chronic inflammation with poverty, which tends to increase inflammation in its own right through factors such as chronic stress. We found that poverty and high levels of inflammation act synergistically, giving people with both factors basically a double whammy. It makes them far more likely to die and in a relatively short period of time, just 15 years.”

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Jill Pease January 18, 2024