A prime objective of welfare state activities is to take action to enhance population health and to decrease mortality risks. For several centuries, poverty has been seen as a key social risk factor in these respects. Consequently, the fight against poverty has historically been at the forefront of public health and social policy. The relationship between relative poverty rates and population health indicators is less self-evident, notwithstanding the obvious similarity to the debated topic of the relationship between population health and income inequality. In this study we undertake a comparative analysis of the relationship between relative poverty and mortality across 26 countries over time, with pooled cross-sectional time series analysis. We utilize data from the Luxembourg Income Study to construct age-specific poverty rates across countries and time covering the period from around 1980 to 2005, merged with data on age- and gender-specific mortality data from the Human Mortality Database. Our results suggest not only an impact of relative poverty but also clear differences by welfare regime that partly goes beyond the well-known differences in poverty rates between welfare regimes.