The researchers analyzed data from more than 25,000 adults over 50 years of age, looking for factors that could predict how long they lived before beginning to suffer from age-related disabilities, such as being unable to get out of bed or cook for themselves.
The team discovered that the most important socioeconomic factor in predicting when these problems began was wealth, and that the richest people enjoyed almost a decade more before experiencing difficulties.
Starting at age 50, the richest men analyzed could expect another 31 years of healthy life, compared to the less well off, who could only expect another 22 to 23 healthy years.
For women, it was projected that the richest would enjoy 33 more years of good health, compared to 24 for the poorest.
“While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, quality of life as we age is also crucial,” said lead author Paola Zaninotto, a public health specialist at University College London. “By measuring healthy life expectancy we can obtain an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favorable states of health or without disability.”
The study, the work of researchers from a team of universities in Europe and the USA. UU., Is far from being the first to point out the importance that wealth plays in people’s lives, although most have focused on life expectancy rather than quality of life.
The data for the new research were obtained from two aging studies: one from the United Kingdom, which had 10,754 respondents, and another from the United States, with 14,803 respondents. There were no significant differences between the two countries in relation to the key findings of the study.
“Inequalities in healthy life expectancy exist in both countries and are of similar magnitude,” the authors wrote in their conclusion. “In both countries, efforts to reduce health inequalities should target people from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.”
Overall, the global life expectancy at birth in 2016, the last year for which data is available, was 72 years, according to the World Health Organization. The average world life expectancy increased by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s, WHO said.