Midlife Wealth Mobility and Long-term Cardiovascular Health

Original Investigation

June 30, 2021

Sara Machado, PhD1; Andrew Sumarsono, MD2,3; Muthiah Vaduganathan, MD, MPH4

1 Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom
2 Department of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
3 Division of Hospital Medicine, Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Texas
4 Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

JAMA Cardiol. Published online June 30, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2021.2056


Importance  The association of socioeconomic status and cardiovascular outcomes has been well described, but little is known about whether longitudinal changes in wealth are associated with cardiovascular health status.

Objective  To evaluate the association between midlife wealth mobility and risk of cardiovascular events.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This longitudinal, retrospective cohort study included US adults 50 years or older who participated in the Health and Retirement Study. Participants in the primary analysis had no history of cardiovascular disease and had observations in at least two of three 5-year age intervals (50-54, 55-59, and 60-64 years) and follow-up after 65 years of age. Data were collected from January 1, 1992, to December 31, 2016, and analyzed from November 10, 2020, to April 26, 2021.

Exposures  Quintiles of wealth (reflecting total nonhousing assets) were defined within each of 4 birth cohorts (1931-1935, 1936-1940, 1941-1945, and 1946-1950). Wealth mobility was defined as an increase or a decrease of 1 or more wealth quintiles and was compared with wealth stability (same quintile over time) using covariate-adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression models.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Composite outcome of nonfatal cardiovascular event (myocardial infarction, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, or stroke) or cardiovascular death.

Results  A total of 5579 participants were included in the primary analysis (mean [SD] age, 54.2 [2.6] years; 3078 women [55.2%]). During a mean (SD) follow-up of 16.9 (5.8) years, 1336 participants (24.0%) experienced a primary end point of nonfatal cardiovascular event or cardiovascular death (14.4 [95% CI, 13.6-15.2] per 1000 patient-years). Higher initial wealth (per quintile) was associated with lower cardiovascular risk (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] per quintile, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.84-0.95]; P = .001). When compared with stable wealth, participants who experienced upward wealth mobility (by at least 1 quintile) had independently lower hazards of a subsequent nonfatal cardiovascular event or cardiovascular death (aHR, 0.84 [95% CI, 0.73-0.97]; P = .02), and participants who experienced downward wealth mobility had higher risks (aHR, 1.15 [95% CI, 1.00-1.32]; P = .046).

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings suggest that upward wealth mobility relative to peers in late middle age is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular events or death after 65 years of age.

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