Researchers analysed data on more than 25,000 people over 50 years old, searching for variables that could predict how long they lived before they began suffering from age-related illnesses
A major study conducted on Americans and Brits has shown the disturbing economic inequalities behind lifespans, with rich people living healthy and disability-free lives an average of nine years longer than the less wealthy people.
CNN reports that researchers analysed data on more than 25,000 people over 50 years old, searching for variables that could predict how long they lived before they began suffering from age-related illnesses, such as being unable to get out of bed or cook for themselves.
The richest men could expect another 31 healthy years of life from the age of 50 – relative to the least well-off, who could expect only another 22 to 23 healthy years.
The wealthiest women were expected to enjoy 33 more years of good health, compared to 24 for the poorest.
"While life expectancy is an useful indicator of health, the quality of life as we get older is also crucial," lead author Paola Zaninotto, a public health specialist at the University College London, said in a statement.
"By measuring healthy life expectancy, we can get an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favourable states of health or without disability."
Studies in 2016 found that men in the top financial one percent group in the US may expect to live up to 87.3 years of age, nearly 15 years longer than those in the bottom one percent. The difference was 10 years for women.
In the UK, a 2018 study found poor people die about a decade earlier than those who are better off.
Data for the new research was pulled from two aging studies: one from the UK, which had 10,754 respondents, and another from the US, with 14,803 respondents. There was no significant difference between the two countries in relation to the study's key findings.
"Inequalities in healthy life expectancy exist in both countries and are of similar magnitude," the authors wrote in their conclusion.
"In both countries, efforts in reducing health inequalities should target people from the disadvantaged socioeconomic groups."
In general, the global life expectancy at birth in 2016 – the latest year for which data is available – was 72 years, according to the World Health Organisation.
The global average life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s, the World Health Organisation said.