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Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age

With wealth and education come fewer chronic problems, study finds

MONDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- People who are wealthy and educated appear to have a better chance of living a longer and healthier life.

Researchers from the British Economic & Social Research Council, who analyzed data from 2002 to 2007, found that that wealthier people lived longer, and those who were richer and better educated were less likely to have depression, high-blood pressure or diabetes or to be obese.

The gap in health and life expectancy caused by socioeconomic status was obvious in all age groups, but it was most pronounced among those in their 50s and 60s.

"Increases in life expectancy raise major challenges for public policy," study leader James Nazroo, a professor in the University of Manchester's sociology department, said in a news release from the council. "Among these is the need to respond to marked inequalities in economic position and life expectancy at older ages."

The researchers also found the retiring early was generally good for one's health -- unless the person had been forced to stop working because of health or economic reasons. Forced retirees were shown to have poorer mental health than others who retired early or at a normal retirement age.

However, seniors who did volunteer work, cared for others or took part in similar non-work activities tended to have a better mental and physical life, as long as they felt their work was been recognized.

"Despite the fact that we are all living longer, many people now stop work before the statutory retirement age, and a large proportion of these still have the potential to provide a positive input into society, the economy and their own well-being," Nazroo said. "Our findings will help us understand how society can help people realize this potential."

More information

The AARP has more about healthy living for older adults.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Economic & Social Research Council, news release, May 7, 2009

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