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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Gulf in rich-poor life expectancy
Flats on an estate
But some figures do suggest the rich/poor gap is narrowing
The wide gap in life expectancies between rich and poor persists, with professionals enjoying far longer lives than their low-skilled contemporaries.

A male lawyer can expect to live over seven years longer than the man who empties his wastepaper bin, Office for National Statistics figures suggest.

The government has made the reduction of life expectancy inequalities one of its key health targets for 2010.

But the England and Wales data suggests overcoming differences may be tough.

Shop workers

Male and female non-manual workers - which include professionals as well as clerks - saw the greatest increase in life expectancy in the 33 years covered by the study, stretching from 1972 to 2005.

Men in non-manual jobs could expect to live to 79.2 by 2005, compared to 71.2 in the mid-1970s - a difference of eight years.

By contrast, male manual worker life expectancy increased by 6.8 years over the same period, despite starting from a lower base.

Women non-manual worker life expectancy went up 5.2 years to 82.9, compared to an increase of 4.8 years for manual counterparts, who could expect to live to 80 by 2005.

Security guards
Care assistants
There is however some evidence to suggest that the rate of growth in recent years has slightly shifted in favour of the non-manual worker.

Between 1997 and 2005, life expectancy at birth increased slightly more for men in the manual division than for those in the non-manual - 1.8 years and 1.3 years respectively.

But the ONS said it was too early to say whether this showed a genuine change in the pattern.


Experts say we should now start to see the poor catch up with the rich, and if this trend is not borne out, there is genuine cause for concern.
Non-manual man: 79.2
Manual man: 75.9
Non-manual woman: 82.9
Manual woman: 80

The less affluent started to give up smoking much later than their richer neighbours - the 1970s compared to the 1950s - and the health improvements seen by this change take about 30 years to materialise.

"If we don't start seeing changes as a result of this, then it means there are other major factors at play," says Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University.

One is the rich are getting richer, and can effectively "buy" longer lives through more regular holidays and leisure activities.

But increasingly, research suggests that the very nature of people's work, and not just the lifestyle it affords them, can have an impact on longevity.

"Monotonous jobs where workers have little control over what they do can be much more stressful than more high-powered jobs, where people have much more freedom," said Professor Dorling.

"And that ultimately may take its toll."

Life expectancy gap 'widening'
29 Apr 05 |  Health


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