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Key points

  • Life expectancy increases with average income.
  • An increase in household income of £1,000 is associated with a 3.6 month increase in life expectancy for both men and women.

Money and resources can affect health in a number of ways. People need a certain level of income to be able to afford the basics for a healthy life. Higher incomes enable people to have more choice, and this often means they have access to healthier options.

This chart shows the relationship between life expectancy and equivalised household income for men and women (see technical notes) after housing costs, comparing these across small local areas in England. Household income after housing costs is the most accurate measurement to reflect the resources available to households. For lower-income families in particular, the minimum cost of housing accounts for an unavoidably high proportion of income..

The chart shows a strong relationship between life expectancy and income. As average income rises, so does life expectancy. A similar relationship is seen when other measures of income are used (such as income before housing costs).

While income is an important predictor of how long people live, life expectancy can be influenced by a range of other factors such as housing, job quality and population composition.

Government efforts to increase 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.

  • Life expectancy is defined as the number of years someone is expected to live.
  • 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: Health Foundation analysis of Office for National Statistics, Income Estimates for Small Areas, England & Wales, 2017/18; Life expectancy at birth and age 65 by sex for Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs), England,  2016 to 2020

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