For the first time since the 1870s, the gap between the lifespans of rich and the poor people in England is widening. Research suggests that the diffreneces is because of inequality and lifestyle choices between socio-economic groups.

Despite huge increases in life expectancy in both groups, rich people's lives are still extending faster, academics from Cass Business School and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) found.

The paper reveals that though 20th century have seen better life expectancy because of improvements in health facilities, clean drinking water and the introduction of vaccination, gap is big because improvements were unreasonably shared among the poor.

"Based on data from the Human Mortality Database we measure the differences in age between the first 10% of adult deaths and the top 5% of survivors. We find that in the period from 1879 to 1939 this gap steadily closed," the report said.

"Although life expectancy continued to rise after 1950, the inequality gap remained roughly constant and in recent years," it added.

The authors also said those from the lower socio-economic groups tend to make more damaging lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol and partaking in unreasonably riskier activities.

Professor Les Mayhew, who co-authored the report explains that the aforementioned acts are mostly done by the poor because wealthy people easily adapt to their healthy lifestyle choices.

"As medical knowledge and living conditions improved, a person's own choices, including whether they drink, smoke and what they eat, became much more important," DailyMail notes

The authors suggest lack of wealth is not directly responsible for the difference, but the poorest groups are more likely to suffer the snowballing effects of decades of poor lifestyle choices and income inequality.

They say it is vital to encourage healthier lifestyles and to counter pressure on individuals. Moreover, the trend is worrying for policymakers and they should make it a priority for policy action.

Below are statistical findings of the study as summarized:

  • In England and Wales, 5% of men that have attained the age of 30 are living on average to the age of 96, 33.3 years longer than the lowest 10%.
  • This gap grew by 1.7 years between 1993, when it was at its narrowest, and 2009
  • For women, the longest surviving are reaching 98.2 years-old, 31 years longer than the lowest

In an email, a Department of Health spokesperson appealed and told Peter Russell of WebMD that everybody should have the same opportunity to live a long and healthy life.