Wealthy people live nearly a decade longer than poorer people, study finds

Sarah Young
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Being wealthy can add nearly a decade to a person’s lifespan, new research suggests.

A study conducted by University College London (UCL) has found that those who are the richest tend to live far longer free from illness and disability than those who are the poorest.

Published in the Journal of Gerontology, experts analysed data from more than 25,000 people aged 50 and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and the US Health and Retirement Study.

The researchers found that while there were no major differences between the UK and the US when it came to life expectancy, wealth did have a substantial impact on how many years participants lived for.

The data showed that at age 50, the wealthiest men in England and the US lived for an extra 31 years in good health compared with around 22 to 23 years for those in the poorest group.

Meanwhile, women from the wealthiest groups in the US and England lived for an extra 33 years in good health compared with 24 to 25 years for the poorest.

“Inequalities in healthy life expectancy exist in both countries and are of similar magnitude,” the researchers said.

"In both countries efforts in reducing health inequalities should target people from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups."

For the study, data was collected in 2002 and participants were followed for up to a decade to see how their health fared.

Dr Paola Zaninotto, lead author of the report from UCL, 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."

The findings follow recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which revealed that Britain’s richest people are seeing their wealth grow almost four times faster than the poorest.

Between 2016 and 2018, the data showed that total UK wealth surged 13 per cent to £14.6 trillion, with rising property values and pension pots accounting for most of the gains.

Meanwhile, the richest tenth of the population saw their wealth rise 11 per cent while the poorest experienced a three per cent gain.

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