• At all ages people in poverty are more likely to report their health as less than good than people who are not in poverty.  
  • Of all 45–54-year-olds reporting that they are not in good health, 9% more are in poverty than are not.

The chart shows the proportion of people who report their health as less than good (on a scale of ‘very good’, ‘good’, ‘fair’, ‘bad’ and ‘very bad’) by age and whether they live in poverty. Poverty is defined as an individual living in a household where net household income is below 60% of the median in that year, after adjusting for household size and housing costs. 

Poverty can affect health when financial resources are insufficient to meet basic living needs, such as adequate heating for the home, appropriate clothing, or adequate nutrition. 

  • There is a clear gap between the proportion of people who live in poverty and people who do not live in poverty that report their health as less than good: 
  • There is a difference in the share of those who report their health as less than good of around 10 percentage points for those aged 25–34 years and of 16 percentage points for those aged 45–54 years.  

There is also a gap between those reporting ‘very bad’ or ‘bad’ health between people living in poverty and people who do not. This gap is around 10 percentage points for those aged 45–54 years. 

The gap widens for older age groups up until ages 55–64 years, when the gradient in overall increase in poor health starts to reduce. This is likely to reflect the increased prevalence of poor health in the older population and the age band of 65 years and older spanning a wider age range. Our focus here is on the health of working-age adults.  

This relationship holds even if only considering those in work, which means the effect is not just a result of those with poor health being in poverty because their health prevents them from working.

Being in poorer health is more likely for those in poverty. Poverty rates in the UK are not improving, and therefore a significant challenge exists to reduce poverty and the subsequent negative implications for health.

  • Poverty is defined as an individual living in a household with a net household income below 60% of the median in that year. 
  • Income is adjusted for household size to reflect economies of scale, for example, a household of four needs more income for the same standard of living as a household of one, but not four times as much. 
  • Housing costs are deducted from income, to reflect that people with lower incomes in particular have less choice about their cost of housing, relative to their income. 
  • Self-rated health is measured on a five-point scale from ‘very good’ to ‘very bad’. Other options include ‘good’, ‘fair’ and ‘bad’.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions, Households Below Average Income and the Family Resources Survey

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

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