Social class a barrier to successful ageing

Research by Ian Rees Jones, Professor of Sociology at the School of Social Sciences and colleagues at University College London, has shown that improving access to education and housing and increasing people’s material circumstances through income and pension levels could have a more profound effect on the health of the population than interventions aimed at changing an individual’s health behaviours. As part of an Economic and Social research Council funded project, his analysis was of a complex set of data drawn from a survey of middle aged men from 24 British towns (the British Regional Heart Survey - collected between 1978-2003).

The research found that smoking, exercise and alcohol consumption among men aged 60-70 appeared to be influenced by their behaviours when aged between 40 and 59, and that this is class related. For example, long term adherence to healthy lifestyles is more common among middle class men in southern towns. Professor Jones’ research team also found a link between older people’s levels of health, wellbeing and social involvement and their retirement circumstances - whether they retired voluntarily or due to illness or unemployment as well as the level of their pension.

Publication date: 19 April 2011