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Gap in lifespans between richest and poorest expanding

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People in higher socioeconomic groups live longer People in higher socioeconomic groups live longer

The gap between the longest and shortest lifespans is widening, with links to socioeconomic status, a report by the CASS Business School and the International Longevity Centre has found.

The report, An investigation into inequalities in adult lifespan, looked at the differences in age between the earliest 10% of adult deaths and the top 5% of survivors found that in England and Wales, 5% of men that have attained the age of 30 are living on average to 96.0 years, 33.3 years longer than the lowest 10%. In women, the longest surviving are reaching 98.2 years old, 31 years longer than the lowest.

It was clear that the first half of the 20th Century was characterised by a narrowing of the gap in lifespan as everyone benefited from improvements in clean drinking water, better housing, higher incomes and better health,’ said Robert Mayhew, the report’s author and professor of statistics at CASS business school. ‘Despite general rises in life expectancy after 1950, the life expectancy gap between men and women widened while inequalities in lifespan persisted rather than narrowing further.’

According to the report’s authors, the gap is linked to socioeconomic factors. For example, the report says that unhealthy lifestyles are the main causes of this widening gap. As males in the lowest socioeconomic groups are more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is a gap in longevity between the groups. Significantly, the the life expectancy of those in the lowest and the highest socio-economic groups is diverging for the first time since the 1870s.

‘This very timely report highlights how, despite huge increases in life expectancy, the gap between rich and poor is increasing,’ said Sally Greengross, the International Longevity Centre UK’s chief executive.’This trend is particularly worrying for society and policymakers must do more to begin to narrow this gap again. Preventing inequalities in ill health and disability must be a priority for policy action.'

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