Wealth inequality is having a larger impact on life expectancy than ever before. While life expectancy is generally increasing, most of the gains are being solely enjoyed by wealthier individuals and not so much by their lower income counterparts. Indeed, financial discrepancies are becoming increasingly prominent, and it is leading to severe inequalities in terms of access to healthcare.
Inequalities are very noticeable when one examines the estimated age that people are expected to reach without developing a major disability. In some poor areas, people are expected to reach age 55 before they develop a disability, but in certain wealthier areas that are within driving distance, the expected age is 71. This 16 year difference represents a stark contrast in access to healthcare between the rich and the poor.
While real wages have been rising for those in stable jobs, people who have not been able to maintain consistent employment have largely fallen further behind. Additionally, many people who do have stable jobs are simply not being paid enough, as the number of people who are a part of the working poor continues to grow. While these people might be able to support themselves and their families under normal circumstances, a major health issue can often be impossible to handle.
Still, the problem is most likely going to continue to get worse. With social security quickly drying up, many individuals will be left without any support when they need it most. Given the rise in working poverty, social security is more critical than ever before, and it will probably not be there for millions of elderly people who need it. Furthermore, the proportion of spending on old and sickly people is expected to increase in the coming years.
It all points to a very troubling trend. While life expectancy might be increasing overall, poorer people are actually living shorter lives. And the latter years of these lives are often spent in crippling disability.
As one’s income gets lower, one’s life expectancy declines. Additionally, the quality of one’s life also declines. The gains in health are almost exclusively being felt by the rich, while poor people are remaining stagnant.
So while health might be improving on average, for many people nothing is getting done. Initiatives should be taken so that everyone can experience health benefits, not just the wealthy. Otherwise, our population could quickly become overrun by old, sick and disabled people.