Life expectancy gap between the richest and the poorest in the UK widens

Image: Not eating enough healthy food is one factor behind shorter life expectancy in the UK 

The life expectancy gap between the richest and the poorest in the UK is widening for the first time since the 1870s, according to new research.

Researchers at the Cass Business School at City University in London found that the differences are particularly marked where men are concerned. The top 5% of men living the longest have an average life expectancy of 96 years, 33.3 years longer than men in the bottom 10%.

Researchers said that in the UK today, short life expectancy is primarily a consequence of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which are more likely to be made by men in low-income groups.

The life expectancy gap between the top 5% and the bottom 10% of men grew by 1.7 years between 1993, when it was at its narrowest, and 2009.

Between the 1870s and the 1950s factors such as better housing, clean drinking water, higher wages and overall better health saw the lifespan gap between the rich and the poor decrease.

This trend is now reversing. Professor Mayhew, the author of the report, said: “We found that since the 1990s lifespan inequalities in men have actually worsened in England and Wales.

“The research blames the widening disparity on poor life style choices rather than ambient risks which were prevalent in the first half of the 20th Century. Key among these life style choices are smoking, drinking and poor diet – choices that are more likely to be made by the poorest in society.”

The research, carried out in partnership with the International Longevity Centre-UK, found that for women, the gap between those who live the longest and those whose life expectancy is the shortest is 31 years.