Life expectancy, especially for rich, boosted during boom

Improvement ‘took off’ from 2000 but seeds of trend sown earlier during 1990s

 Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI said the research provided the first analysis of the way differentials in mortality changed during the last three decades in Ireland. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI said the research provided the first analysis of the way differentials in mortality changed during the last three decades in Ireland. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The wealthiest groups in society enjoyed disproportionate gains in life expectancy and reductions in death rates during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, fresh research shows.

Although all classes benefited from the “longevity bonus” conferred during the boom, the improvement was not shared equally, according to the research to be presented on Wednesday at an Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) conference.

The death rate among male professionals, managers and the self-employed fell six times as fast as for male working-class groups between the 1990s and 2000s, it found. Male manual workers were almost four times more likely to die from external causes such as accidents, poisonings, assault and suicide as professionals.

The difference in life expectancy among social groups is largely explained by trends in the number of deaths from external causes, according to the study by the ESRI, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Maynooth.

A rise in suicides among younger unemployed men and increasing death rates from industrial and farming accidents during the boom may explain the growing differential, it is suggested.

Heavy drinking

Another factor is the rise in deaths from digestive diseases among manual groups in society, particularly among women. Digestive diseases such as liver cirrhosis stem from heavy drinking.

The improvement in Irish life expectancy “took off” during the height of the boom from 2000, but the seeds of this trend were actually sown earlier. This was thanks to improvements in the control of cardiovascular and respiratory conditions in the late 1990s among the over-65 population.

Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI said the research provided the first analysis of the way differentials in mortality changed during the last three decades in Ireland.

“The good news is that life expectancy for all groups in Ireland is at an all time high. The bad news is that the gap between groups has increased. This project attempts to understand why and what we can do about it.”