Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 234–250 | Cite as

Social security and mortality: The role of income support policies and population health in the United States

  • Peter S Arno
  • James S House
  • Deborah Viola
  • Clyde Schechter
Original Article


Social Security is the most important and effective income support program ever introduced in the United States, alleviating the burden of poverty for millions of elderly Americans. We explored the possible role of Social Security in reducing mortality among the elderly. In support of this hypothesis, we found that declines in mortality among the elderly exceeded those among younger age groups following the initial implementation of Social Security in 1940, and also in the periods following marked improvements in Social Security benefits via legislation and indexing of benefits that occurred between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s. A better understanding of the link between Social Security and health status among the elderly would add a significant and missing dimension to the public discourse over the future of Social Security, and the potential role of income support programs in reducing health-related socioeconomic disparities and improving population health.


Social Security income support social epidemiology health policy 



Support for this article was provided, in part, by a RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research (Arno) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey and by grant P60-MD0005-03 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (Arno, Schechter). Special thanks to Nancy Sohler for her preliminary assistance with the analysis and to Robert G. Hughes, David Mechanic, Al Tarlov, Lynn Rogut, and Hal Strelnick for their support and encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter S Arno
    • 1
  • James S House
    • 2
  • Deborah Viola
    • 1
  • Clyde Schechter
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Health Policy & ManagementSchool of Health Sciences and Practice, New York Medical CollegeValhallaUSA
  2. 2.Survey Research Center, University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Family and Social MedicineAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA

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