One of the chief drivers of Canada’s looming demographic challenge is the fact that people are living longer, but these gains aren’t distributed evenly throughout the population — wealthier, better educated Canadians live longer, in better health, than those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
According to a new study from Statistics Canada, people with either higher levels of education or higher incomes live longer, and they can expect more years of good health.
“Education- and income-related disparities in life and health expectancy persist and may be wider than they were 15 years ago among the household population in Canada,” the study concluded.
For instance, the study found that, for men at age 25, those with a university degree live 7.8 years longer than those that don’t graduate high school.
And, at age 65, better educated men can expect to live 4.3 years longer than the least educated.
For women, the differences are somewhat smaller — a university degree is associated with 6.7 years of additional life expectancy at age 25, and 4.0 years at age 65.
The better educated also spend a greater portion of their lives in good health.
For men at age 25, university graduates can expect to be healthy for 89% of their lifespan, versus 81% for those with less than a high school diploma.
For women, the numbers are 87% and 79%, respectively, StatsCan reported.
When comparing income levels, the study found that, for men at age 25, those in the top 20% of the income distribution can expect to live 7.7 years longer than those in the bottom 20%.
At age 65, those in the top 20% can expect to live 4.7 years longer than those at the bottom of the distribution.
Again, the effects are somewhat less dramatic for women.
At age 25, women in the top 20% of income can expect to live 5.4 years longer than those in the bottom 20%. And, at age 65, the difference between the top and bottom of the income distribution is 2.8 years.
StatsCan noted that education and income are often used as indicators of socioeconomic position, but that they are not considered interchangeable.
“Education is widely thought to increase health knowledge and literacy, which in turn can promote the adoption of healthier lifestyles and facilitate access to appropriate health care. Higher income allows access to better-quality material resources — such as food and shelter — and better, easier or faster access to services,” it said.