How social divisions affect life expectancy
By Sabine Sütterlin
For about a century average life expectancy has grown steadily, in a steep and seemingly inexorable manner. While people were living an average of 30 years at around 1900, human kind has reached a mean life span of 71 years nowadays. Can this trend continue? Longevity-optimists are convinced that people living today may very well grow 150 years old. Yet, in many industrialised countries, societies are divided into two groups: one group consists of people reaching a very high age, remaining fit and healthy for a long time; another group is composed of less privileged people who are more likely to fall ill and die sooner. For health and, related thereto, life expectancy are essentially influenced by two factors: social status and educational level. The study shows how global differences in life expectancy come about. Society and politics are called upon to take action in order to compensate for health inequality.