Wealthier people live 4 years longer than those in poorer areas, longevity study says

MADRID, Spain — They say money can’t buy happiness, but groundbreaking new research out of Spain suggests wealth can promote a longer life. Scientists from several groups within the Epidemiology and Public Health Area (CIBERESP) of the Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBER-ISCIII) report poorer people live between three and four years less than wealthier individuals.

An extensive team of researchers from the National Centre of Epidemiology of the ISCIII, the Biosanitary Research Institute of Granada, the University of Granada, and the Andalusian School of Public Health collaborated to develop the first ever “life tables” in Spain. These charts are based on socioeconomic levels, and this breakthrough will likely prove very useful in the future, study authors say. For example, when studying the survival rates of different diseases such as cancer.

After analyzing the relationship between socioeconomic levels and life expectancy, the study found women and men living in the poorest areas of Spain tend to live between 3.2 and 3.8 years less, respectively, than their more well-off counterparts in the richest areas. Moreover, researchers calculated that women, on average, live 5.6 years longer than men (82.9 years for women, 77.3 for men). Per Spanish province, life expectancies tend to be longer in the north of the peninsula and in the provincial capitals, in comparison to rural areas.

Study authors assessed all-cause mortalities from the 35,960 census tracts in Spain collected during the 2011-2013 period. Mortality models were also stratified according to sex, age group, and socioeconomic levels.

The team arrived at these socioeconomic distinctions using an index developed by the Spanish Society of Epidemiology. This index included information drawn from six primary indicators mainly related to employment and education: percentage of manual workers (both employed and unemployed), casual workers, percentage of population without secondary education, and main residences without internet access.

Life tables are becoming more popular worldwide

“Understanding the association between life expectancy and socioeconomic status could help in developing appropriate public health programs. Furthermore, the life tables we produced are needed to estimate cancer specific survival measures by socioeconomic status,” says Daniel Redondo, a researcher from the CIBERESP at the Biosanitary Research Institute of Granada and the Andalusian School of Public Health, in a media release.

This first-ever creation of life tables based on socioeconomic levels in Spain will help researchers study survival rates in cancer and other chronic illnesses by introducing the health inequality perspective, something other countries like the U.K. have already been doing for some time. All in all, researchers believe this will contribute mightily to cultivating greater knowledge and understanding of the factors that influence the prognosis of certain diseases in Spain.

“Our life tables are essential to calculating life expectancy and estimating cancer survival, as inequalities in this disease persist and have a financial impact on health care costs,” explains María José Sánchez, head of the group of the CIBERESP at the Andalusian School of Public Health.

To that end, the researchers say they need even more detailed life tables that estimate survival rates based on cancer registries that keep track of net survival, probability of death, years of life lost due to the disease, as well as other factors.

The study is published in Scientific Reports.

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