We're all living longer but mortality rate between classes grows, finds study

A conference on socio-economic inequality in Dublin will today hear that while people’s life expectancy is improving, the gap in mortality rates between the professional and working classes is continuing to grow.

The conference is called “Socio-Economic Inequalities in Mortality in Ireland Over Time and Place”.

It will focus on the research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, Trinity College, and NUI Maynooth.

Among its research findings, the conference will outline that while death rates for male manual workers aged up to 65 were 100% higher than among their professional counterparts in the 1980s, this disparity increased to 140% during the 2000s.

Professor Richard Layte (TCD/ ESRI) said that the death rates among male professionals, managers and the self-employed up to the age of 65 has decreased by 27% between the 1990s and 2000s, compared with a 12% reduction among their working class counterparts.

Prof Layte also noted that death rates from cancer among women is also contributing to a widening gap between social groups.

The research shows that the growing gap between social groups can largely be explained by changes in the pattern of deaths from external causes, such as accidents, poisonings, assault and suicide, and digestive causes like diseases of the liver and oesophagus.

The research also found that:

Between 1950 and 2012 life expectancy in Ireland grew by 15 years on average, from 66 to 81.

All social groups have experienced improvements in life expectancy since the 1980s.

Rises in deaths from digestive diseases such as cirrhosis are strongly linked to increased alcohol consumption.

The female mortality rate among manual groups from digestive causes was 1.5 times higher than the professional group in the 1980s.

By the 2000s, this differential had increased to 2.1.

“This is the first analysis of the way that differentials in mortality changed during the last three decades in Ireland,” Prof Layte said.

“The good news is that life expectancy for all groups in Ireland is at an all-time high. The bad news is that the gap between groups has increased. This project attempts to understand why and what we can do about it.”

The conference’s keynote speaker is Professor Johan Mackenbach, who is professor of public health, chair of the Department of Public Health at Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre Rotterdam.

He is one of the leading figures in the comparative study of socio-economic inequalities in mortality.

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