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Being poor costs years of life even as we all age

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Being poor costs years of life even as we all age
Photo: DPA
08:10 CEST+02:00
Life expectancy is increasing in Germany, with every other woman now expected to live past her 85th birthday and every man his 80th, but data shows that those not making these milestones are likely to be poor.

German girls born between 2009 and 2011 should, on average, live until they are just over 82. Boys born in the same time bracket should hit an average of just over 77. This is an increase of two months for boys and three months for girls compared with those born between 2008 and 2010.

In industrial countries, life expectancy tends to be a stable, rising trend and since 1960 alone has gone up by a decade. But what basic statistics do not show it costs years of life to be poor.

This was the central conclusion of a study from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) which along with the Robert Koch Institute have been carrying out long-term research on 11,000 households since 1984.

Poorer German men die on average five years earlier than their more well-off counterparts. Women lose three-and-a-half years of potential life if they are poor.

Martin Kroh from the DIW said the figures showed “an indisputable relationship between life expectancy and income.”

He said the reasons poorer people died earlier were probably a mix of the inability to afford preventative health care and an unhealthier lifestyle.

He explained that men with lower incomes tended to have jobs which were more physically demanding, thus potentially costing them life-time. Women were more negatively affected by the psychological burden of not having enough money, or social interaction.

Generally though, life expectancy in industrial countries has been rising steadily for the past 170 years and “over the past decade life expectancy for men has gone up by one year every five years,” said Rembrandt Scholz, scientist at the Max Planck Institute for demographic research.

He added that there had to be an upper limit to how old the population could get, but it was not clear what that would be.

Although living as long as possible is often, on a personal level, an achievement, an ageing society was already proving to be a strain on Germany as a whole, said Professor Gerd Glaeske from Bremen University.

The health care system, in particular struggles as people live longer with chronic diseases such as diabetes and survive long enough to develop conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease. It is expected that the number of Germans with dementia will double by 2050.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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