Rich people live longer and have 9 more healthy years than poor people, according to new research

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  • A new study found that rich people over 50 can expect to live 8 to 9 years more healthy years than the poorest people in their countries.
  • At age 50, wealthy men could expect to live 31 more healthy years than poor men, while wealthy women could expect to live 33 more healthy years than poor women. 
  • This has implications for how government money might get spent on taking of older citizens.
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A significant new study suggests rich people may enjoy up to nine more healthy years than the poorest people. 

A new study analyzed 10 years of data from 25,000 people over the age of 50 in the United States and England, two countries with severe socioeconomic disparities between their rich and poor.

The research, published in the Journal of Gerontology, suggested that, for both countries, wealth wasn't just an advantage when it came to living longer: it was also a predictor of how many healthy years a person can expect to enjoy.

The study classified healthy as whether the person was living free of health conditions that would stop them from getting out of bed or taking care of themselves.

At age 50, wealthy men could expect to live 31 more healthy years, which was roughly nine years more than poor men would live, while wealthy women could expect to live 33 more healthy years, which was also nine more years than poor women would live. 

Study author Paola Zaninotto told the New York Times $980,000 was the average wealth of the most wealthy group of Americans, adding that the secret to this nine year longevity was likely "having access to funds when you have ill health." 

Since 1800, when humans could expect to live until age 40, life expectancy has doubled, though previous research has found that women still live longer than men. The average lifespan of a man is 76 years, while the average lifespan of a woman is 81 years, according to the CDC.

But while life expectancy is a good indicator of health, quality of life is perhaps more significant. People are living longer than their great-grandparents, but they're not necessarily living better. For poorer people in America and England, the last years of life might be spent being chronically ill or disabled. 

The new study also reflected previous research showing that health inequalities decrease with age, as age can act as a common leveler. The older both groups of people got, the more the disability disparities disappeared. 

One limitation of the study is that participants in studies like these tend to be healthier than the general population, meaning the disparities might actually be worse than portrayed.

Read more:

Here's what it actually means to die 'of old age'

What causes human bodies to age? Here's what scientists know about the biology behind growing old

How what you consider 'old age' changes when you turn 30, 40, 50, and 60

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