Middle-class professionals like doctors and accountants in the UK are living about eight years longer than builders and cleaners, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics.
While life-expectancy among all social classis has increased, it is alleged that variations in the age at which people are dying point to the failure of Government measures to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
AdvertisementThe study, which looked at people from five social classes in 1972-76 and 2002-05, showed that skilled workers had had a greater increase in life expectancy at birth, and at the age of 65 than those in manual occupations.
It also showed that men engaged in professional occupations live up to the age of 80, almost eight years longer than those in unskilled jobs, whose life expectancy is 72.7.
Professional women were found to have a life expectancy at birth of 85.1 years as compared to 78.1 years for manual workers.
While men in managerial and technical occupations like that of journalists and teachers have slightly shorter life expectancy at 79.4, unskilled workers such as labourers and cleaners have the shortest life expectancy.
The King's Fund, a health think tank, said the figures showed the differences between social groups were growing.
"Those who have a lower life expectancy have it because of a range of factors. They may live in housing which is damp and has poor heating, or near busy roads which means more air pollution. But the nature of people's jobs also has an effect. If you have autonomy and control over what you do, you tend to be in better health," the Telegraph quoted Karen Jochelson, a research fellow, as saying.
"There is also evidence that shows people on low incomes have higher smoking rates and their diets tend to be worse because high fat, high sugar diets are cheaper," Jochelson added.
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said that public health resources and the actions of government should be focused on tackling poor health outcomes in the most deprived areas and among the poorest sections of society, instead of simply providing treatment of disease.
Many experts believe that the problem will worsen if the poor failed to catch up with the rich. According to them, the less affluent started to give up smoking in the 1970s, two decades later than their richer neighbours, and the health improvements seen by this change take about 30 years to materialise.
"If we don't start seeing changes as a result of this, then there are other factors at play," said Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University.
Dorling says that one of such factors is that the rich can effectively buy longer lives through more regular holidays and leisure activities.