United States - poverty, smoking, and high-school dropouts impose the greatest burden of disease..

December 28, 2009 - The average low-income person loses 8.2 years of perfect health, the average high school dropout loses 5.1 years, and the obese lose 4.2 years, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Tobacco control has long been one of the most important public health policies, and rightly so; the average smoker loses 6.6 years of perfect health to their habit. But the nation’s huge high school dropout rate and poverty rates are typically not seen as health problems.

PAPER: The Relative Health Burden of Selected Social and Behavioral Risk Factors in the United States: Implications for Policy, Peter Muennig, Kevin Fiscella, Daniel Tancredi, Peter Franks, American Journal of Public Health, 10.2105/AJPH.2009.165019, ABSTRACT..

On average, poverty showed the greatest impact on health. Smoking was second, followed by being a high school dropout, non-Hispanic Black, obese, a binge drinker, and uninsured. The findings are based on data from various national datasets that are designed to measure both health and life expectancy. Healthy life lost combines both health and life expectancy into a single number, sometimes known as quality-adjusted life years.

To read more - Mailman School of Public Health press release..