Headlines: May 7th, 2009

The impact of wealth and social class on older people’s well-being is detailed in new research published today. The study produced for the Economic and Social Research Council says the effects are much greater than was often assumed.

The research, led by Professor James Nazroo from the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester, shows that people from lower socio-economic groups, on average, die earlier than their wealthier counterparts. It also found that people from lower socio-economic classes, and those with less education and wealth, are more likely to suffer from depression and from long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The study was based on a detailed analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging and concluded that inequalities in health and life expectancy arising from socio-economic inequalities persist into the oldest ages but are larger for those aged in their 50s and 60s. Early retirement is generally good for people’s health and well-being unless they are forced into it.

Professor Nazroo said the findings had important implications for everyone and the increase in life expectancy threw up major challenges for public policy. “Among these is the need to respond to marked inequalities in economic position and life expectancy at older ages. In addition, despite the fact that we are all living longer, many people now stop work before the statutory retirement age and a large proportion of these still have the potential to provide a positive input into society, the economy and their own well-being,” he added.