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Conservative Policies Are Associated with Early Death, Study Finds

The researchers found, if left-leaning policies were implemented nationwide, they may have saved 171,030 lives in 2019.

Demonstrators hold signs during a rally to defend abortion access and codify Roe v Wade into law, in Foley Square in New York City on October 8, 2022.

Working-age people living in states governed largely with conservative policies are more likely to die early than people in states with more left-leaning policies, a new study finds, corroborating observations and theories that left-wing political commentators have maintained for years.

The study, published this week in PLOS ONE, analyzed a wide swath of policies relating to the criminal legal system, health care, taxes, climate and the environment, firearms, and labor, rating them between a 0 and 1 scale, where zero is the maximum conservative score and one is the maximum left-leaning score. They compared those policies with mortality rates in a 20-year span between 1999 and 2019.

The authors found that the rate of death among people between 25 and 64 in states with predominantly conservative policies was higher than in states with predominantly liberal policies. In nearly every policy area that the authors analyzed, left-leaning policies were associated with a lower rate of death.

Further, the authors found that these left-leaning policies could save lives if implemented nationwide.

“Simulations indicate that changing all policy domains in all states to a fully liberal orientation might have saved 171,030 lives in 2019, while changing them to a fully conservative orientation might have cost 217,635 lives,” the authors wrote.

This research lends statistical evidence to what the left wing has maintained for many years: left-leaning and leftist policies are not only a moral imperative but also, in many cases by design, save lives. Conservative policies, meanwhile, are often designed to consolidate capital and help corporations and the wealthy hoard ever more money and power — which comes with devastating human consequences.

“If a state policy maker were to say to me, ‘it’s unfair to criticize my state because I have a low-educated, low income population,’ I would ask them, ‘why do you have a low-educated, low-income population?’” lead study author Jennifer Karas Montez, sociology professor at Syracuse University, told USA Today. “It’s because of your policy environment.”

Indeed, co-author Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, told USA Today that the study showed that higher mortality was associated with policies “helping the private sector to thrive in hopes that the economic gains would trickle down to those who need more assistance.”

The study found particularly strong links in certain realms: “between the gun safety domain and suicide mortality among men, between the labour domain and alcohol-induced mortality, and between both the economic tax and tobacco tax domains and [cardiovascular] mortality,” they wrote.

The research is especially relevant, the authors write, as the life expectancy rate is far lower in the U.S. than it is in other wealthy countries. In 2019, U.S. life expectancy was 78.8 years — 5.7 years lower than in Japan, which has the longest life expectancy, 3.3 years lower than in Canada and 2.5 years lower than in the U.K.

Conservative policies may be to blame for the U.S.’s relatively poor life expectancy. The authors say that the spread of conservative policies across the country could be contributing to a lower life expectancy for the U.S.

Indeed, other studies have corroborated this claim. One study found that life expectancy in the U.S. could increase by almost four years if the country adapted more generous social policies.

For instance, if the U.S. had Medicare for All, which is currently not in place in any state, it could have saved over 338,000 lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, another study found earlier this year. Other left-leaning ideas and policies — like higher rates of unionization, stricter gun policies, cutting carbon emissions, wider abortion access, and more — have also been shown by researchers to be potentially life-saving.