"We found that socio-economic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy were similar across all ages in England and the USA but the biggest socio-economic advantage in both countries and across all age groups was wealth", said Dr Paola Zaninotto, a professor in epidemiology and healthcare at University College London, which led the research.
The study looked at how long people in England and the USA lived without disabilities such as being unable to get in and out of bed or being unable to cook for themselves.
"Lack of health insurance among those aged below 65 years does not only affect prevention and early diagnosis, but also access to appropriate medical intervention when serious illness strikes and the ability to pay for other needs, such as adequate housing and food", the authors state in the paper.
The study, which looked at 10 years of data, investigated socioeconomic inequalities in disability-free life expectancy in older people in England and the US.
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The biggest socioeconomic factor in predicting when those problems began was wealth, the team discovered, with richer people enjoying nearly an extra decade before experiencing difficulties. This means that if you are 50 years old and in the richest group, you can expect to live for another 31 years in good health, whereas people in the poorest groups could only expect to live for another 22-23 years without health problems. Yet research has previously shown that such a divide has less to do with age and more to do with health care (or lack thereof).
'Our study makes a unique contribution to understanding the levels of inequalities in health expectancies between England and the U.S. where healthcare systems are very different'.
If you're after a more achievable way to improve your health, without having to earn a load of money, research found that drinking green tea is linked to a longer and healthier life, too. "Furthermore, our results of similar levels of socioeconomic disadvantage in health expectancy in England and the United States suggest that in both countries greater efforts should be put into reducing health inequalities".
Echoing the study's conclusion, Zaninotto said that "our results suggest that policymakers in both England and the US must make greater efforts into reducing health inequalities". As she put it: "Starvation wages, bad for workers, helps the super rich literally drain their life force so that they can live longer lives".