Wealthy people live 9 extra 'healthy' years according to academics

Study studied more than 25,000 people to determine how long they would live without disabilities

Wealthy people live 9 extra 'healthy' years according to academics
Steve Randall

A major new study has considered how wealth affects the number of disability-free years people may live.

Research published this week in the Journal of Gerontology discovered that those with wealth have an average 8-9 extra ‘healthy’ years compared to those from the poorest groups.

For the study, healthy was considered to be free from disabilities such as being unable to get in and out of bed or unable to cook for themselves.

The team, led by academics from University College London analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a total of more than 25,000 people.

“While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, the quality of life as we get older is also crucial,” said lead author Dr Paola Zaninotto. “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.”

Across the UK and US samples, people were divided into three groups of equal size based on their household wealth.

At age 50, the wealthiest men lived around 31 healthy years compared to 22-23 years for the poorest; wealthy women lived 33 healthy years compared to around 24 years for the poorest.

“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,” added Dr Zaninotto.