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By VANESSA BRIGHT Correspondent

Research data demonstrates that there is a connection between health and wealth. A July report from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation found that people who live in a rich area like San Francisco or the suburbs of Washington, D.C., were likely to be as healthy as their counterparts in Switzerland or Japan.

But those who live in Appalachia or the rural South were likely to be as unhealthy as people in Algeria or Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, women in Marin County, Calif. — where the median household income is $90,962 — had a life expectancy of 85 years. Women in Perry County, Ky., with a median income of $32,676, had a life expectancy just less than 73 years.

Men in Fairfax County, Va., with a median income $109,383, were expected to reach 82 years. But men in McDowell County, W.Va., where the median household income is $22,972, had a life expectancy of nearly 64 years.

The report went on to state that our biggest enemies are our own bad habits — poor diet, smoking and obesity. These habits have proven to be far more dangerous to our health than pollution or risks from radiation.

A Psychology Today report examined predictors of happiness from 30 different surveys that measured spending habits, consumer choices, values and personality traits. It indicated that happy people make five little decisions daily to improve their well- being.

Two of those decisions are related to handling money. The first was that happy people manage their finances well. Also, happy people spend their money on life experiences instead of the accumulation of things.

This research has revealed what I have long believed — there is a strong relationship between health and wealth. Thus, if there are similarities between health and financial matters, then there are most likely behavioral change strategies that can be implemented to improve personal finances and health.

My University Cooperative Extension colleagues, certified financial planner Barbara O’Neill and registered dietitian Karen Ensle have developed a guide that provides a detailed description of 25 small steps a person can take to improve their health and increase their wealth. The overall themes among the strategies are: time, control, knowledge and awareness, automation and environment.

I will be facilitating a support group to take individuals through these steps. If you are interested in participating, please contact me by email at vbright@umd.edu or by phone at 410-222-3903.

Vanessa Bright is a family and consumer sciences financial literacy educator at the University of Maryland Extension. She is also the author of “Dollars and Sense for Parents and Children” available on Amazon. She lives in Odenton with her young son. www.vanessabright.com