• Healthy life expectancy increases with average income.
  • An increase in household income of £1,000 is associated with a 0.7-year increase in female healthy life expectancy.

This chart shows the relationship between female healthy life expectancy and equivalised income after housing costs, comparing the two outcomes for small local areas in the UK. Household income after housing costs is the most accurate measurement to reflect available resources to households. For lower income families, in particular, the level of housing costs reflects an unavoidable outgoing rather than a choice.

Money and resources can affect health in a number of ways. Individuals require a certain level of income to be able to afford the basics for a healthy life. At a level of income above that required to meet basic needs, stresses still exist and these can eventually harm physical health.

The chart shows a strong relationship between healthy life expectancy and income. A similar relationship is seen for male healthy life expectancy and when other measures of income are used (such as income before housing costs).

For a given income there is a range of healthy life expectancies owing to other influences on health, such as quality of housing, job quality, differences in income within each geographical area or differences in population composition.

Government efforts to increase healthy life expectancy should account for inequalities in income across different areas in England and Wales. Income policy alone cannot ‘level up’ health, a cross-government health inequalities strategy is needed to take wider policy action.

  • Healthy life expectancy is defined as the number of years an individual is expected to live in good health, based here on period life expectancy and a self-rated measure of good health. Period life expectancy is calculated using current mortality rates. 
  • Equivalisation is a method that adjusts income to reflect household size.
  • The data relates to small local areas (medium super output areas), which are neighbourhoods of around 7,200 people.

Source: Office for National Statistics, Health Expectancies at Birth for Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs), England: 2009 to 2013, 2015. Office for National Statistics, Net annual household income by middle layer super output area (MSOA), England and Wales, 2015/16 (£)

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This is part of Evidence hub: What drives health inequalities?

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