It's no secret that living in poverty drastically impacts your quality of life. People living in poverty experience higher rates of crime, illness, mental illness, and illiteracy. And poverty begets poverty - all of the issues that people living in poverty face make getting out of poverty incredibly difficult, just perpetuating the vicious cycle. Now, an alarming new study suggests that poverty can even negatively impact life expectancy.
The study, conducted by researchers from Imperial College London and published in Lancet Public Health, revealed that the life expectancy of England's poorest women has declined rapidly in the last 7 years. However, the during that same time frame, the difference between life expectancy of the most affluent population and the most poverty-stricken population grew. Between 2011 and 2016, the life expectancy of a woman living in one of England's poorest communities declined by a quarter of a year, while affluent women lived almost eight years longer than poor women. Many of the deaths in poverty-stricken areas were attributed to preventable disease and treatable illness.
Researchers analyzed the deaths of 7.65 million people in England between 2001 and 2016. They found that the life expectancy gap between rich and poor sectors widened from 6.1 years in 2001 to 7.9 years in 2016 for women, and 9 to 9.7 for men. In 2016, the life expectancy for a woman living in one of the most deprived communities was 78.8 years, while affluent women lived 86.7 years. Among men living in poverty, the life expectancy was 74, compared to 83.8 among the richest populations.
The research team also analyzed illnesses that they believe contribute to the widening life expectancy gap. People living in the poorest areas died at a higher rate from all illnesses, but some illnesses in particular highlight the differences in rich and poor communities. For example, newborn deaths, pediatric disease, respiratory diseases, heart disease, some cancers like lung and digestive cancer, and dementias especially attributed to the loss of longevity in poor communities. Sadly, children living in poverty were two and a half times more likely to die than affluent children in 2016.
The study, while not exactly surprising given the struggles people living in poverty face, is still quite alarming. So many of the issues that people in poverty face, like access to healthier food choices, health care, and better wages, need to be addressed to stop this heartbreaking trend.