February 16, 2012 8:27 pm

Retirees staying healthy for longer

For those bemoaning the rise in state retirement ages – and the unavoidable fact that working lives must go on much longer – there is good news: not only are we staying healthier but for longer too.

New data from the Office for National Statistics show that while men who retired at 65 could, on average, expect to live for 13 years more in 1981, that had risen to 17.6 years by 2008. And while they remained healthy for 9.9 of these 13 years in 1982, that had risen to 12.8 by 2006.

For women, the improvements in recent years are less marked – largely because they live for so much longer than men anyway. In 1981, a 65-year-old female could expect to live a further 16.9 years, and to be in good health for 11.9 of these. By 2006, the corresponding numbers were 19.9 and 14.5 years.

However, the data also highlight very significant differences in life expectancy, depending on where a person lives and the socioeconomic group, with the gap between the most well off and the poorest widening.

For example, for men in “managerial and professional” jobs, life expectancy beyond age 65 had risen to 18.8 additional years by 2002-06, up from 15.2 years just 20 years earlier.

In contrast, for men in “routine” jobs that require little training and attract low wages, life expectancy after age 65 is now 15.3 years. Two decades earlier they could have expected to live for an extra 12.9 years.

The ONS said that while it is not clear exactly what accounts for the large gap, “lifestyle” factors might explain part of it. For example, smoking, which is associated with a variety of diseases, is far more prevalent among low-waged workers than among better paid ones.

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