The rich live disability-free for almost a decade longer than poor people, a study suggests.
At the age of 50, the wealthiest men and women in society are able-bodied for an additional eight to nine years compared to the poorest.
Researchers followed more than 25,000 people from the UK and US over a 10-year period.
They looked at disabilities such as being unable to get in and out of bed or cook for themselves and cross-referenced them with volunteers’ income.
After their 50th birthday, the wealthiest men in England and the US lived for roughly 31 years before suffering a disability, compared to around 23 years for poor males.
Rich men and women live disability-free for almost a decade longer than those in poverty, a study has found (stock)
Rich women lived an extra 33 disability-free years, compared to 24 years among the impoverished females.
Poor people tend to be more sedentary, particularly if they are unemployed, and fatter than rich people – two factors that can lead to health woes.
They also have less access to healthcare, especially in the US where there is no universal health service like the NHS.
The poorest in society are also more likely to drink too much alcohol, smoke and get less sleep and exercise.
The top and lowest five areas for life expectancy in the UK
Top five for men:
- Warfield Harvest Ride, Berkshire (90.3 years)
- Fleet North (89.7 years)
- Easton, Norfolk (89.6 years)
- Newton Poppleford and Harpford, Devon (89.4years)
- Salcey, Northampton (89.3 years)
Top five for women:
- Great Corby and Geltside, Carlisle (97.2 years)
- Dullingham Villages, Cambridgeshire (97 years)
- Wimbish and Debden, Essex (96.5 years)
- Laverstock / Ford and Old Sarum, Wiltshire (96.3 years)
- Oakham South East, East Midlands (95.7 years)
Lowest five for men:
- Bloomfield, Blackpool (68.2 years)
- Rhyl West, North Wales (68.3 years)
- Weston-super-Mare Central, Somerset (69.3 years)
- University, Kingston upon Hull (69.4 years)
- Waterloo (69.4 years)
Lowest five for women:
- Gwersyllt West, north Wales (72.6 years)
- Middlehaven, Middlesbrough(74 years)
- Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire (74 years)
- Kingswood, South Gloucestershire (74.3 years)
- Pillgwenlly, Newport, south Wales (74.4 years)
Source: Office for National Statistics
The latest study, led by University College London, looked at 10,754 volunteers over 50 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
It also used data of 14,803 adults of the same age from the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS).
Researchers set out to examine how long people in England and the US can expect to live free from disabilities and to what extent socioeconomic factors play a part.
Data was collected from study participants in 2002 and they were followed for a period of 10 years until 2013.
In both countries, people in the study were divided into three groups based on total household wealth.
Wealth was calculated by the sum of net financial income and net housing price minus all debts. Comparisons were made between the richest and least wealthy groups.
The researchers found socioeconomic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy were similar across all ages in both countries.
But the biggest socioeconomic advantage in both countries and across all age groups was wealth.
Lead study author Dr Paola Zaninotto 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.’
‘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.’
The authors comprised of an international team of researchers from UCL, University of Turku, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, Harvard University, Swansea University, Inserm in France and Stockholm University, Sweden.
The research was published in Journal of Gerontology.