Americans’ health care spending in their last year of life correlates with their level of wealth.

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Cambridge, Mass., have come to that conclusion in a new analysis of Health and Retirement Study data compiled from 1998 to 2006 by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The University of Michigan institute surveys about 22,000 U.S. residents ages 50 and older every 2 years.

Spending for health care for all individuals in the study averaged $11,618 in the last year of life, the researchers report.

Last-year-of-life spending averaged $29,335 for the participants in the wealthiest 10% of participants, $49,907 for participants in the wealthiest 5%, and $94,310 for participants in the wealthiest 1%, the NBER researchers say.

Spending for wealthier individuals included large expenditures on home modifications to accommodate the needs of the individual, along with expenditures on home health care and nursing home care, researchers say.