Study shows wealth inequality does make a difference in how long you will live

In the UK and US, being rich can add almost a decade of healthy living to a person’s life.

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A new study reveals wealth is the key to living a healthier and longer life. 

This study, published by The Journals of Gerontology, examined socioeconomic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy in older men and women from England and the United States and explored whether people in England can expect to live longer and healthier lives than those in the United States.

What they found in the study was:

Socioeconomic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy were of a similar magnitude (in absolute terms) in England and the United States. The socioeconomic disadvantage in disability-free life expectancy was largest for wealth, in both countries: people in the poorest group could expect to live seven to nine fewer years without disability than those in the richest group at the age of 50.

The study is based on data from more than 25,000 adults throughout the U.S. and the U.K. and are all 50 years of age or older. 

“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 favorable states of health or without disability,” says lead author Paola Zaninotto, a public health specialist at UCL. 

Life expectancy overall has increased the past century, but according to Common Dreams, recent evidence has shown life expectancy falling in the U.S. and leveling off in the U.K. amid rising rates of disability and chronic conditions among older adults, the study notes. Previous research also has shown that Americans are worse off in terms of health compared to the British.

In the U.S., with the exception of Medicare and Medicaid, most citizens have to rely on private health insurance. In the U.K., they have established a Nation Health Service (NHS) back in the 1940s. 

The study goes on to say:

Other possible explanations for greater health inequalities in the United States compared to England (10) might relate to a more generous welfare state system in England compared to the United States, including unemployment compensation, sick pay, housing policies, and social retirement benefits.

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