This is not a logical extrapolation of the statistics, but rather a limited and subjective view. So let’s suggest a wider and more objective alternative:
Could it be that the reason poor people smoke and drink more is that they’ve been conditioned to a different mindset than the wealthy? Their perception of life is much more jaded – more likely to be apathetic and stressful because they see little in the way of prospects in a world where (a) there are not enough jobs to go around (b) pay at the lower levels are consciously kept as low as possible to fuel the consumerist addiction and keep the executives as rich as possible, and (c) wealth and material possessions are increasingly seen as the means by which we belong.
Such a mindset is more likely to encourage the need to take refuge in narcotics as the means by which they ‘get through’, and to fill the prospective void which they feel is their lot. And let’s not kid ourselves that reliance on almost universal tertiary education is the answer to the problem. It should be remembered that a free market economy is highly competitive, and only a small percentage of even highly educated people can rise to the upper levels in their chosen fields. Ironically, this becomes truer as high levels of education become commonplace.
So am I right? Well, I certainly believe I have a valid point. And if I am right, then there most certainly is a direct connection between wealth discrepancy and the widening gap in life expectancy. Unfortunately, the wealthy and those in government just don’t want to acknowledge the fact.