Money can’t buy happiness, but it can help you live a healthier and longer life, a new study published in The Journals of Gerontology, said.
A team of researchers from the University College London as found that attaining a net household worth of about $636,791, when you reach 50 years old can add about nine disability-free years to your life, compared to the poorest people with $36,000 or less.
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The researchers landed their findings after looking at data from more than 25,000 people who are 50 years old and above. They found that those who are wealthy live more years free from diseases and disability than those who are poorest. In fact, they found that the richest men in the United States and England lived around an extra 31 years in good health than those with about 22 to 23 years for those in the poorest group.
Among women who are 50 years old in the U.S., they can expect to live 34.7 more years, with 28.6 years disability-free, while men can expect to live 31.5 years more, with 27.2 disability-free. In the U.K., men who are 50 years old can expect to live about 31.3 more years, with 26.9 of those years disability-free, and women can expect to live 34.8 more years, with 28.5 disability-free.
The team analyzed the date from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA). They measured and analyzed disability in terms of impaired activities and instrumental activities of daily living. Then, they utilized discrete-time multistate life table models to measure and estimate total life expectancy and life expectancy free of disability.
Although life expectancy for both countries has markedly increased over the past century, previous studies have shown that life expectancy is falling in the U.S. and leveling off in the U.K., with growing rates of chronic conditions and disability among older adults. This brings financial challenges and problems for health care systems and governments across the globe.
Lower life expectancy for poorest people
The team also found that people from the poorest sections from both countries could expect to live about 7 to 9 years fewer without disability than those in the wealthiest groups when they reach 50 years old. The wealth gap was discovered to be the largest socioeconomic factor that impacted the participants’ healthy life expectancies.
“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 researchers wrote on the paper.
“Inequalities in healthy life expectancy exist in both countries and are of similar magnitude. In both countries, efforts in reducing health inequalities should target people from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups,” the researchers concluded.
The study findings can help policymakers to reduce health expectancy inequalities by improving the quantity and quality of years that people are expected to live. Inequalities impact income, public expenditure on health, and long-term care required for older people.
The researchers said that despite life expectancy is an important health indicator, the quality of life as people grow old is vital. By measuring healthy life expectancy, health experts can estimate the number of years of life spent without diseases and disabilities.
The study can help raise awareness by social inequality and its impact on health, and subsequently, help improve opportunities for health attainment, and reduce health inequalities.
Paola Zaninotto, George David Batty, Sari Stenholm, Ichiro Kawachi, Martin Hyde, Marcel Goldberg, Hugo Westerlund, Jussi Vahtera, Jenny Head, Socioeconomic Inequalities in Disability-free Life Expectancy in Older People from England and the United States: A Cross-national Population-Based Study, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, , glz266, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glz266