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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: We often assume that people with very low incomes have poor health, but a new study suggests being middle class is no lock on having good health. Corinna Wu explains.

CORINNA WU: Using data from the 2000 census, researchers looked at older people in nine different income levels ranging from below the poverty line to seven times that amount.

The study found that the poorest individuals were the most likely to be disabled. But unexpectedly, people with middle class incomes were still at a disadvantage, compared to those slightly better off.

Study author Meredith Minkler is a professor of health and social behavior.

MEREDITH MINKLER: We know the upper class has lower rates of smoking, they may have less stress, better access to health coverage, healthier environments even compared to those living in comfortable middle class situations.

The study appears in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

In Washington, I'm Corinna Wu for Marketplace.