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Being Rich can add Nearly a Decade to Life

Wealthy Men And Women Have 7 To 9 More Years Of Disability-Free Life After Age 50 Than Poor People Do

Heather Murphy

Yes, indeed, it’s good to be rich in old age. According to a study, wealthy men and women don’t only live longer, they also get seven to nine more healthy years after 50 than the poorest individuals in the US and in England.

“It was surprising to find that the inequalities are exactly the same,” said Paola Zaninotto, a professor at University College London and a lead author of the study.

The findings, published in ‘The Journals of Gerontology: Series A’, emerged from two primary questions: What role do socioeconomic factors play in how long people live healthy lives? Do older adults in England stay disability-free longer than those in the US?

To answer these questions, researchers from University College London, Harvard University and institutions in three other countries analysed how well factors, including education, social class and wealth, predicted how long a person would live free of conditions that might impair them from activities such as getting out of bed or cooking for themselves.

Everything paled in comparison with wealth. In both countries, wealthy women tended to live 33 disability free years after age 50 — seven to nine more than poor women, the study found. Wealthy men tended to live 31 disability-free years after 50 — eight to nine more than poor men.

There are many ways to define wealth. In this study, researchers considered physical possessions such as a home, jewels and artworks, as well as other financial assets such as savings and investments. For Americans, the average wealth — not to be confused with income — was $29,000 for the poorest group, $180,000 for the middle group and $980,000 for the richest group, Zaninotto said.

Though education level and social class had some effect, neither was found to be nearly as significant as wealth.

Corinna Loeckenhoff of Cornell University said: “More wealth means it’s easier to get your apartment and access additional services that would not be available to people with less.” Additionally, poverty has been linked to higher stress levels, which has implications for health, she added.

Beyond that, she said she 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 engage in healthy activity, she said.

But what about those people on remote, beautiful islands who seem to live forever? The secret to their enviably long, healthy, lives has little to do with riches, she said.

As far as whether older adults in England or the US stayed disability-free longer, the study found that people’s ability to get around in their final years was nearly identical in both countries. NYT NEWS SERVICE

"More wealth means it’s easier to get an apartment and access to services that would not be available to people with less. Also, poverty has been linked to higher stress levels, which can affect health, say experts".

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