UCL News


Links between health and wealth at older ages revealed

12 January 2004

The initial findings of a pioneering study led by researchers from UCL's International Centre for Health & Society (ICHS) were revealed in December 2003.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot is leading the study The project is the first-ever comprehensive study of into the effects of social, economic, psychological and health factors on the ageing process among Europeans.

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) - a collaborative study by researchers from UCL, the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the National Centre for Social Research and the University of Cambridge - has monitored the health of 12,000 participants aged 50 and over for a period of 20 years. The study will now continue with interviews at two-year intervals, in order to track participants as they grow older.

The findings reveal that the levels of illness, such as heart disease, experienced by manual workers in their fifties are equivalent to those experienced by managers and professionals in their 70s. These inequalities in health relate strongly to inequalities in economic position. People from poorer households are more likely to smoke and have a poor diet, while those in richer households tend to drink alcohol in moderation, which is thought have certain health benefits.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the ICHS, leads the study. He said: "The study is tackling the one of the most important questions currently facing society: how do we provide for an ageing population? By investigating the relationships between health, economic position and social participation as people age, we will be able to answer that question in a complete way, taking into account how older people live today, what inequalities exist in old age and what is necessary for a good lifestyle."

To find out more about the study or the centre, use the links below.

UCL's International Centre for Health & Society