Why does your occupation affect your lifespan? When a person earns more, they tend to live a healthier lifestyle, according to this article in the Telegraph. A person living on minimum wage, or unemployed, may be forced to live in damp or confined Social Housing. They are more likely to eat fast food, which is high in fat and sugar, because it is cheaper. Also they may live in more densely populated areas, where there is more air pollution. Richer people also have the opportunity to pursue healthy activities, such as joining a gym, or even going on holiday.
Slate.com, an American website, largely agrees, stating that ‘merely by living in closer proximity to major roads, poorer people are exposed to an increased risk of Asthma’.
There are even more sinister causations, according to worldlifeexpectancy.com, who state that ‘having no job is the most dangerous job of all’. A sense of despair from being unemployed or under employed, can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide. Other factors such as domestic violence, stress, and smoking and drinking, all contribute to the reason professionals live 7 years longer than unskilled workers in the UK.
Is occupational health a psychological or a physiological issue? It can be argued that, contrary to traditional beliefs, it is more the psychosocial stress and anxiety of working in a lower socioeconomic group that leads to an impaired immune system. The body is then more susceptible to chronic and life threatening diseases.
According to a study from The Longevity Panel, not only do higher paid workers live longer, the gap is growing. While in the 1980s, the longevity gap between lower and higher management was two years, now it has increased to three.
What can be done about this increasing inequality? If the above study is to believed, lifestyle is the major cause for the growing problem. Poorer people are not keeping fit and healthy, are eating fast food, and smoking and drinking to excess. These problems are costing the NHS billions every year. Obesity alone has risen overwhelmingly in the poorer classes, to the point where 25% of Britons are obese, and Britain is now the most obese country in Europe. A ‘prevention is better than the cure’ approach should be considered, where subsidising gym memberships and healthy food options for the under privileged could help eradicate the life shortening combination of poor health and poor eating.
If the problem is more a psychological one, as cited by Forbes above, then surely greater emphasis has to be placed on eradicating unemployment. Not simply for the economy, but for the longevity of the citizens which the government have been elected to serve.