Rich people live nine 'healthy' years longer than those less wealthy

Portrait of smiling mature couple at the balcony at home
Being wealthy is linked to living more disability-free years. [Photo: Getty]

Wealthy people can expect to live, on average, eight to nine more “healthy” years of life compared to those who are less well off.

This is according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology, which examined how long adults can expect to live a disability-free life, rather than looking at simply life expectancy.

The study looked at how long people in England and the US lived without disabilities such as being unable to get in and out of bed or being unable to cook for themselves.

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Researchers analysed data from 10,754 and 14,803 adults aged 50 and over, which was initially collected from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

It was found that the biggest socioeconomic advantage in terms of disability-free life expectancy was wealth.

To determine this, study participants from both countries were divided into three equal groups based on total household wealth, and comparisons were made between the richest and least wealthy groups.

It was found men from the wealthiest groups were expected to live, on average, 31 additional “healthy” years after the age of 50, while the poorest groups were expected to live between 22 and 23 healthy years after this time.

Women from the wealthiest groups were expected to live an average of 33 “healthy” years after the age of 50, compared to 24.6 and 24 years from, respectively, the poorest wealth groups in England and the US.

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Dr Paola Zaninotto (UCL Epidemiology and Health Care), lead author of the study, 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.”

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