Yes, in fact, it is good to be rich in old age. According to a new study, wealthy men and women not only live longer, but also get eight to nine healthier years after age 50 than the poorest people in the United States and England.
“It was surprising to find that the inequalities are exactly the same,” said Paola Zaninotto, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London and lead author of the study.
The findings, published Wednesday in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, emerged from two main questions: What role do socioeconomic factors play in how long people live healthy lives? Do older adults in England remain disability free for longer than those in the United States?
To answer these questions, researchers at University College London, Harvard University and institutions in three other countries turned to two existing datasets that contain more than 25,000 people over 50. Then they analyzed how well several factors, including education, social class and wealth, predicted how long a person would live free of conditions that could harm them by activities such as getting out of bed or cooking on their own, the definition of the study of ” Disability-free and “healthy.”
Everything paled in comparison to wealth. In both countries, rich women tended to live 33 years free of disability after age 50, eight to nine more than poor women, according to the study. Rich men tended to live 31 years free of disability after 50, eight to nine more than poor men.
There are many ways to define wealth. In this study, the researchers considered physical possessions, such as a house, jewelry and works of art, as well as other financial assets, such as savings and investments that had accumulated during a person’s life, less debts. For Americans, the average wealth, which should not be confused with income, was $ 29,000 for the poorest group, $ 180,000 for the middle group and $ 980,000 for the richest group, said Dr. Zaninotto.
Although the educational level and social class had some effect, none were found to be as significant as wealth. The researchers did not evaluate race as a factor in England, restricting that country’s data set, which to begin with was almost completely white, to white Britons. When analyzing the most racially diverse US data established by race, the conclusions remained the same, said Dr. Zaninotto.
Further study is required to understand why wealth in particular is such a strong indicator of how long an intact person lives, he said, but it is most likely a function of “having access to funds when in poor health.”
Corinna Loeckenhoff, director of the The Cornell University Healthy Aging Laboratory complemented the methodology and made a similar observation.
“More wealth means that it is easier to get to your appointments and access additional services that would not be available to people with less,” said Dr. Loeckenhoff, who was not involved in the study. Also poverty It has been linked to higher levels of stress, which has health implications, he added.
Beyond that, he said he was curious about the potential role of lifestyle and personality traits. People who were more inclined to save money, for example, might also be more likely to do healthy activities, he said.
But what about all those people in remote and beautiful islands that seem to live forever? The secret of their enviable long and healthy lives has little to do with wealth, right?
Yes, of course, longevity is also affected by other factors, said Dr. Loeckenhoff. “The biggest recommendation is to exercise and eat a healthy diet,” he added, noting that the ability to do so could also be affected by wealth.
As to whether older adults in England or the United States remained free of disability for longer, the study finally found that the ability of people to move in their last years was almost identical in both countries. The researchers were intrigued by the result, Dr. Zaninotto said, as they had previously found that older Americans tended to be less healthy than older Britons, largely due to obesity.