Research Suggests Widening Gap Between Life Expectancy in Rich and Poor

May 3rd, 2016

New research has suggested that the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor is increasing in England and Wales for the first time in decades.

Researchers from City University London found that people are living longer, but the gap between those from poor and wealthy backgrounds is increasing in size for the first time since the 1870s. Although life expectancy is increasing across the board, the average figure for those from more affluent backgrounds is increasing at a faster rate.

A report completed by researchers at the university suggested that the gap in life expectancy decreased between 1870 and 1939. At this time, everyone had access to clean drinking water and better healthcare. In the 1950s, life expectancy increased, but there were still differences between varying social backgrounds. In the 1990s, the trend actually reversed and gaps between rich and poor increased. This was particularly evident in men.

Data from the Human Mortality Database showed that in 2010, the oldest 5% of men reached an average age of 96 years old, compared to the youngest 10%, who died at an average age of 62.

Professor Les Mayhew from CASS Business School explained that lifestyle choices are the most significant factors. In the past, wholesale changes to healthcare and the introduction of modern sanitary systems benefited all, but now, life expectancy is much more dependent on individual choices. Research suggests that young men from poor backgrounds are most likely to make damaging lifestyle choices, for example smoking and drinking excessively. Although it’s not possible to say that these lifestyle choices cause poorer health in less affluent areas, figures suggest that low life expectancy is intrinsically linked with high rates of smoking and drinking and a higher probability of a sedentary lifestyle in deprived areas.

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