Lower income brackets have shorter healthy life expectancy

24/12/2009 15:00

The average life expectancy of people living in households with incomes below the poverty line is approximately 5 years shorter than the life expectancy of higher incomes. The healthy life expectancy of higher incomes is no less than 14 years longer.

Risk of poverty and shorter life expectancy go together. In 2007, the average life expectancy at birth for men and women was 78.3 and 82.8 years respectively. Life expectancy of male members of households with an income below the low-income threshold was nearly 75 years at birth, as against nearly 80 years for men above the low-income threshold. The life expectancy gap between women below and above the low-income threshold was also about 5 years. 

Life expectancy by income position, 2007

Life expectancy by income position, 2007

Healthy years also shorter for lower incomes

People at risk of poverty not only live shorter lives, but their healthy life expectancy is also shorter. Men in the low income brackets have a healthy  life expectancy at birth between 51 and 52 years, whereas men in the higher income brackets have a healthy life expectancy at birth of more than 65 years. For women, the differences are largely the same. Life expectancy at birth without physical limitations or chronic diseases is also shorter for lower than for higher incomes.

Healthy life expectancy at birth by income, 2004/2007

Healthy life expectancy at birth by income, 2004/2007

65-year-olds below the poverty line live shorter and are less healthy

At birth, the difference in life expectancy between lower and higher incomes is larger than for older people. Men aged 65 at risk of poverty on average will live approximately 16 years, just over two year shorter than higher income males. For 65-year-old women, the corresponding difference is nearly 3 years. The difference between lower and higher income 65-year-old men and women with respect to healthy life expectancy and health without physical limitations are also considerable. As for life expectancy without chronic diseases, there is a difference for men, but not for women.

Healthy life expectancy at 65 by income, 2004/2007

Healthy life expectancy at 65 by income, 2004/2007

Marion van den Brakel and Kim Knoops