Life expectancy analyzes: poor + East German + man = formerly dead

The Robert Koch Institute attributes social inequality "massive effects" on public health. Poorer people die much earlier - but the flu also plays a role.

Poorer people in Germany continue to have a lower life expectancy than richer ones. This emerges from current analyzes of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin. Currently, 13 percent of women from the lowest income group die before their 65th birthday, but only 8 percent from the highest. In men, 27 percent died from the lowest income group before their 65th birthday, while only 14 percent from the highest income group.

The results also indicated that "the gain in lifetime in the highest as well as in the middle income groups has increased and thus the gap to the lowest income group" has increased or could have. However, this statement could not be verified statistically.

Social inequality has a "central importance" for public health because of its "massive impact" on public health, said RKI chief Lothar Wieler. The Berlin Institute is the central government agency for disease surveillance and health prevention.

"Accident-causing behavior" in men

That poor economic and social living conditions shorten the average life expectancy has been known for some time. A study in the British medical journal "The Lancet" had linked to unfavorable socio-economic living conditions, such as low-skilled or low-educated work. The affected people came down to an average of two years shorter life expectancy.

The RKI evaluated for the investigation official death records and data from the SOEP household survey, which allows statements about social and economic contexts. Overall, life expectancy in Germany has increased significantly in recent years. However, the differences between the poorer and the richer have remained relatively similar over the past 25 years, according to analyzes.

Differences in life expectancy also exist between the sexes. According to RKI researchers, mean life expectancy for women was 79 years in the mid-1990s and 72.5 for men. By 2015/2017 she had increased to 83.2 years for women and 78.4 years for men. The differences go back here mainly to the unhealthier lifestyle or "accident-causing behavior". According to the analysis, there may also be "subpopulations with a particularly high mortality associated with a lower socioeconomic status among men".

Poverty of single parents "I was so ashamed"

Sometimes it also depends on the place of residence, whether people die earlier. The women in the new federal states have only reached the life expectancy of women in the old federal states since 2014/16. On average, the men in the new federal states still die several months before their counterparts in West Germany.

In their current analyzes on life expectancy and mortality, the RKI experts also addressed a possible connection between severe influenza waves and breaks in the increase in average life expectancy. Accordingly, the years with severe epidemics such as 2013, 2015 and 2017 are also those in which the increase in life expectancy, which has been advancing for decades, is stagnating.

According to the institute, there were an estimated 20,000 deaths each year due to the flu, which accounts for around two percent of annual deaths. This could explain the small interruptions of the general trend.