Wealthy Likely To Live An Extra 9 Healthy Years Than The Poor

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
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The wealthy are likely to live longer free from illness and disability than the poor, according to a new study.

The report links health and wealth in Britain and the US for the over 50s.

Researchers wanted to know how long the over 50s in both countries could carry on looking after themselves performing tasks like cooking and getting in and out of bed unaided while questioning if socioeconomic factors played a part in their lifestyles.

Wealth was revealed as the factor having the biggest impact.

The study led by University College London tracked nearly 15,000 people aged over 50 on both sides of the Atlantic for 10 years to come up with the results.

Quality of life

The conclusion was at 50 years old, the wealthiest men in England and America should expect to live 31 healthy years, compared to around 23 years for the poorest.

For women, the gap was even wider – with an expectation of 33 healthy years for the wealthy and around 24 years for the poor.

Project leader Dr Paola Zaninotto (UCL Epidemiology and Health Care) said: “While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, the quality of life as we get older is also crucial. By measuring healthy life expectancy we can get an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favourable states of health or without disability.

“Our study makes a unique contribution to understanding the levels of inequalities in health expectancies between England and the US where healthcare systems are very different.”

Call to reduce health inequality

In both countries, people in the study were divided into three groups  each containing 33% of the sample based on total household wealth  – the sum of net financial wealth and net housing wealth minus all debts and comparisons were made between the richest and least wealthy groups.

“We know that improving both the quality and the quantity of years that individuals are expected to live has implications for public expenditure on health, income, long-term care of older people and work participation and our results suggest that policy makers in both England and the US must make greater efforts into reducing health inequalities,” she said.

Read the UCL paper

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