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Over 50s 'less healthy than five years ago'


A study has revealed that people aged over 50 are less healthy than they were five years ago.

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) detected a rise in sedentary behaviour among those born in 1960 or before, which had led to a marked increase in both waist size and weight since the research was last carried out.

The research found that people on low incomes were more likely to be obese because they exercise less frequently and ate fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than those who were more affluent.

The study also suggested that poorer people were more likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes.

Around 43% of women with low incomes were obese, compared with only 28% of wealthy females, while only 39% of poor men ate five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, compared with 61% of their wealthier counterparts.

The ELSA also found evidence that biological ageing is slower among people with better socio-economic circumstances, and that levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, the hormone which predicts life expectancy, were lower in less wealthy people.

Work disabilities were also found to be most common among people from poorer backgrounds and those with lower levels of education, while they were particularly common among men in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The National Centre for Social Research questioned 10,860 people aged over 50 in 2008/09.


Readers' comments (6)

  • what do all these factors mentioned here have to do with wealth? please can anybody explain this. it might also be interesting to compare the costs of the weekly shop between different financial groups. my lack of understanding is why the wealthy eat more fruit than the poor and is the cost of fruit in the uk too high that the poor can't afford it or is there another reason. fruit is a great foodstuff as most doesn't need cooking

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  • My understanding is if you have little money the less well off or poor would cheaper ingredients to provide a meal rather than buy fruit which is understandable from their point of view if you are, and feeding a family on a low budget you may understand the importance of fruit and a balanced diet but putting food on the table would be a priorty.
    and not everyone knows how to put a meal together from bits and peices
    i am lucky that i can buy and eat fruit but i also think it is very expensive and getting more so, when you consider the cost of a weekly shop in the uk and the cost of living rise do they reflect one an other No
    I work with the elderly and very often i notice that food for this age group is more expensive when you buy for one Why? they like all of us have a large market area

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  • In other countries, you can easily buy half of a small loaf for half the price of the full sized version, and one or two single fruits etc. In the UK there is no such option, and where there is an option it is quite limited in comparison.
    There is a great deal of poverty in the UK and food here is generally more expensive than on Mainland Europe. If you have a family to feed and little money then generally parents will chose "filling" as opposed to healthy options. There is not enough education in school to teach children how to ,make simple inexpensive meals. To change people you have to educate and change attitudes.

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  • It is often not the price of fruit and veg that sees the indication of the poorer not buying it, but the social norms of that pert of society and what constitutes a normal diet which has the greatest effect.

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  • I think the explanation from annoymous 25 october 9.09 am is a very plausible explanation in answer to my questions above 24 october 1.14 pm which then requires further education to change attitudes.

    as regards the comment above about shopping for one in the uk I agree from personal experience it is very uneconomical and totally unfair that many products are unavailable in reasonably small quantities limiting one's diet more than neccessary which also has psychological effects.

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  • there's an evolutionary psychology perspective that suggests that as the poor have a lower life expectency than the rich they will engage in more risky behaviour, grab their pleasures while they can and worry less about the consequences. all those behaviours that serve to reduce life expectancy! but also, behaviours that result in more children. you see the same in developing nations, as general prosperity increases, so family size goes down. similarly so in the west, my grandmother had ten siblings, i have one. in the next couple of years expect poorer diet, more alcohol, increased teenage pregnancy, etc. as the public sector sheds jobs. IF the health education budget remained, in real terms, the same or increased, and diet improved, alcohol consumption and teenage pregnancy declined, etc. then the above hypothesis would be found wanting. but the healthy eating message has been going on for years, i don't think middle class mums are the only ones to have heard of five-a-day. it's just that the message seems more relevant when your offspring's prospects are university then a job in the city rather than drug dealing then death in teenage gang violence.

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