Belonging to a low social stratum decreases life expectancy about two years

A study involving researchers from the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP) concluded that socioeconomic conditions influence the average life expectancy. It was found that in places of greatest socioeconomic deprivation men live on average two years less and women one year less.

The work, published in the journal BMC Public Health, was designed to calculate the average life expectancy for different social strata of the Portuguese population, according to the level of socioeconomic deprivation of their places of residence – an indicator that takes into account the characteristics of housing, unemployment, educational level, etc.

To this end, the researchers built life tables, a statistical tool that provides information on the mortality and probability of survival of an individual, stratified by age and sex, and in this study also by time period and socioeconomic status, something being done for the first time in our country.

The analysis of the evolution of the average life expectancy of the Portuguese population focused on the years 2000-2002 and 2010-2012.

The mean life expectancy at birth increased from 74 to 77.6 years for men and from 80.9 to 83.8 years for women in the decade under review. However, this increase varied according to the level of socioeconomic deprivation. It was found that in places of greatest socioeconomic deprivation men live on average two years less and women live one year less.

According to Luís Antunes, the first author of the study, in which the researchers Camille Maringe and Bernard Rachet of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also participated, “we see that the average life expectancy of the population has increased, but there has not been a reduction in inequalities in mortality among socioeconomic groups over the decade analyzed. In fact, these inequalities can still be reduced”.

Therefore, it is urgent to “take measures that contribute to the reduction of inequalities in access to health, since there is a fringe of the population that can benefit from better health outcomes if it has the same conditions as those most favoured”, the researcher adds.

It should be highlighted that the statistical analysis methodology used in research and the construction of mortality tables may be useful for other studies that aim, for example, to monitor social inequalities or to compare the survival of cancer patients.

The article is entitled Deprivation-specific life tables using multivariable flexible modelling – trends from 2000–2002 to 2010–2012, Portugal. The ISPUP researchers Denisa Mendonça and Ana Isabel Ribeiro also participated in the study.

In addition to the ISPUP Epidemiology Research Unit (EPIUnit), the Instituto Português de Oncologia do Porto (IPO Porto), the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar da U.Porto (ICBAS), the Faculdade de Medicina da U.Porto (FMUP) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK, also took part of the study.

Image: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

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