Based on the latest year of data, the Society of Actuaries last fall dropped its life expectancy estimates for 65-year-olds in the U.S. by six months.If you see their chart, with the population divided into quintiles (5 groups) by income, you see essentially three longevity groupings. The bottom two groups (= 40%) in the 76-78 range, the middle 20% at 83, and the top 40% around 88.
The result of these trends, according to a new study, is a widening gap between wealthier and poorer Americans.
In 1980, a 50-year-old man in the wealthiest fifth of the income distribution could expect to live five years longer than a 50-year-old man in the lowest-income group. By 2010, the gap between them had jumped to 12.7 years.
Only the bottom 20% has lost ground (-0.5 years) over the last 30 years. The top 60% has made substantial gains, 5-8 years more life expectancy. The next-to-the-bottom 20% gained modestly: roughly 1 year more.
There's an unintended consequence you may not have considered:
One important result of this 13-year life expectancy gap: Social Security and other government programs, such as Medicare, are becoming a much better deal for well-off Americans.Because they live longer in retirement and thus collect, on average, many more (larger) monthly Social Security checks. To what do the researchers attribute the growing life expectancy gap between the social classes?
Some cite rising levels of substance abuse, obesity, and suicide. Others point to the ways economic inequality drive health inequality. The cost of good health care has skyrocketed, even for people who are technically covered by insurance.Two things the study authors don't mention. I believe tobacco use is much more common among the less affluent, and its negative health effects are well-documented. Also, being (and staying) married is more common at higher income levels, and marrieds live longer.