Is a healthy retirement only for the wealthy?


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As retirement age gradually rises in the UK, so does the number of people not reaching retirement age, which is felt most harshly in the most disadvantaged parts of the country. In the poorest 10 percent, one in four people will die before reaching the planned high retirement age of 68, while among the poorest deciles the number is less than one in ten.

This year, ministers postponed deciding when to raise the retirement age for both men and women from the current 66. Perhaps they felt that accelerating this increase might be too sweet a medicine for the public at a time when life expectancy was declining even before coronavirus.

But the next administration will have to deal with this dilemma after the general election approaches. The decision will have a major impact on those who rely heavily on pension benefits, a vulnerable group least likely to be healthy enough to live and enjoy years of leisure after retirement.

By 2022, far more people will die in the poorest 10% than in the poorest 10% at each age group through age 83. If you live in the upper decile, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s unfair for a friend to die at 60. Young; those on the other end of the scale probably know three times as many people who died at that age.

A snapshot of an interactive graphic is shown. This is most likely due to being offline or having JavaScript disabled in your browser.

He believes that rising mortality rates between the richest and least disadvantaged groups are simply due to more people making “wrong decisions” such as smoking, eating the wrong foods, and using drugs. may be easy. But the fact that this discrepancy is consistent even in children suggests a more complex relationship. In 2022, ten times as many of her 8-year-olds died in the most disadvantaged deciles as in the least disadvantaged.

And for those who have reached retirement age, health is not universal. Nearly five years before the average Briton retires at 68, health begins to deteriorate, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The disparity here is staggering. If all people in the UK lived to a healthy life expectancy of 100%, only the top 20% would be healthy enough to reach retirement age of 68. Advances in medicine may have a positive impact, but recent data show that healthy life expectancy has not increased and is even worse in some regions. If healthy life expectancy continues to stagnate, a healthy old age will be eroded each time the retirement age rises.

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You can learn even more by observing your top and bottom decile health on the survival chart. Depending on the age of the babies born in each group, the likelihood of good or bad health can be compared. Babies born in the richest part of the UK have a 71% chance of being healthy and reaching age 68, but on the other side of the wealth spectrum, the chances are less than half. People living in the poorest neighborhoods are more likely to go to a friend’s funeral or visit a friend in the hospital than to hike with them. Those in the upper decile are surrounded by healthy contemporaries and may be shocked when someone becomes unwell.

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But to enjoy a healthy retirement, it’s not just about being in good shape, it’s about staying fit. People in the top decile are more than twice as likely as those in the bottom decile to live well over 10 years of retirement.

A universal “healthy retirement chance” instead of a universal retirement age would allow us to set fairer goals. For example, if we decide that each baby at birth has a 50% chance of enjoying leisure for 10 years or more, the retirement age of the top decile might be set slightly below the expected age of 68, while , the retirement age of the lower decile may be set below the expected age of 68. The bottom decile is free to retire at age 46.

A single retirement age is actually a regressive policy. Disadvantaged groups invariably die young, so they receive less pensions overall. But just being aware of the disparity between the luckiest and the least fortunate is just the beginning. Many countries in the world do not yet have this data. The first step in adjusting the regressivity of these policies is recognizing it.


A third graph showing survival and health status by age was generated using the latest available life tables for the period 2018-2020 published by the ONS. For survival data, the numbers for males and females were combined, averaged for both sexes, and plotted. We combined this with proportional self-reported health data collected from the 2021 Census.

Both life tables and health data provide data by age group. To get the numbers for a given age, we assumed a constant rate of change within the age group so that we could approximate the value for a given age.

Throughout the article, I used a retirement age of 68 to calculate the numbers. This is because the data represents people born between 2018 and 2020, when the minimum retirement age is 68.

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