Whoever wants to enjoy his or her retirement for a long time must have a good health and enough money saved. It’s that simple. People with little education and a low income are more often unhealthy and often have less money to put aside for retirement. Their life expectancy is shorter.
A lot of education and a high income make people sensitive to lifestyle information
Probably there is no causal link between unhealthiness, much or little education and a high or low income. There are people with little education and a low income who have a healthy lifestyle and therefore often also have a longer life expectancy.
Although people who have received a lot of education and are richer can also live very unhealthily. However, this is less common because they are more sensitive to the enormous amount of information about a healthy lifestyle.
Are doctors pigheaded risk-takers, or does their job jeopardize their health?
How this for instance works with doctors is unclear. They belong to the unhealthiest population group. Even though they have been trained for a long time and usually are well-to-do. Admittedly, their education and their job are almost entirely about unhealthiness.
But it is of course undeniable that they do know how to live healthily. Are they ignoring that information because they think they know better? Are they pigheaded and thus take more risks? Or does their job jeopardize their health? It’s probably a bit of everything.
Does everybody has the capacity, the patience and the desire to achieve a long life expectancy?
Another advantage of a good health and enough money in most countries is that those that have it pay higher and longer health insurance premiums and often have to pay more for medical care themselves.
Does this mean that people who want to live longer have to educate themselves longer? Or do they have to create more awareness about a lifestyle that guarantees a longer life expectancy? Not everyone has the capacities, the patience or the desire for that.
Social inequality has no impact on health
Some sociologists believe that the causes of the difference in life expectancy are dominated by social inequality. But there is no scientific evidence for unhealthiness due to social inequality. In the eighties of the last century, a movement in science emerged that attributed the causes of an unhealthy life to social inequality. Supporters of this theory always refer to diseases that are easily transferable, but have long since stopped occurring in Western countries, such as tuberculosis.
Cheap food and hygienic provisions provide health
But tuberculosis simply disappeared because from the middle of the 19th century, patients were isolated from the rest of the population.
Only after tuberculosis had almost completely vanished, a suitable medicine was invented.
Most other transferable diseases disappeared when food got cheaper and thus more available and because on a large scale hygienic provision had been taken care of.
People with little education and low income benefit most of health and social interventions
Social inequality is unjustified and must be combated by all means. But we must realize that people with little education and a low income benefit much more from medical and social interventions than people with a lot of education and a high income. This is because people with little education and a low income have more and more serious medical and social problems. They therefore make more use of the facilities to mitigate these problems.
Change of lifestyle after retirement
That much is likely, the causes of the differences in life expectancy can not be linked to social inequality. For a significant part they probably must be attributed to our lifestyle. As a consequence there’s always some room for a change of lifestyle.
But such a change is quite an effort and is hampered by at least three psychological thresholds.
1. Freedom of choice
Often we view our lifestyle as a form of personal freedom. A freedom that is highly supported by, for example, the large fast food chains and large companies who provide for our food. They emphasize our freedom of choice and easy living. As a matter of fact they choose for you, and their choice is in their own interest and not in yours.
2. Short and long term benefits
It’s also far more complicated to unlearn something when we try to change our lifestyle. On the opposite it turns out to be very easy and comfortable to learn something. Moreover, if we perceive the reward on the short term to be more beneficial as on the long term.
3. Elitist babble
Often we view our lifestyle as the best lifestyle. So if someone calls on us to change our lifestyle, we fall back on our resistance mode: ‘Who do they think they are? Telling me what is right and what is wrong? Let them keep their ‘elitist’ babble about health and social responsibility for themselves!’
Lifestyle, politics and religion
Seen in this light, it seems that an unhealthy lifestyle is getting political and religious traits. And indeed, many a ‘populist politician’ looks very unhealthy. Do they derive their ‘populism’ from their physical appearance? Do they appeal to the unhealthy convictions of their brethren? And thus try to win their votes? Is this why they so often stress total freedom? Would this be why Obama always tried to prevent people from knowing that he was a smoker?
Many adapt to a new life after retirement and are very happy about it
Of course there’s no serious way to know this. Which leaves us with some intriguing questions. Why does a very large proportion of people with little education and a low income lead a life in good health? Do they arrange for a joyful retirement and a long life expectancy? As a friend of mine found out, many of them do. They are very keen to adapt to their new life after retirement and are very happy about it.
Please, show us how you changed your lifestyle after retirement.
How did you come about? Are you happy with the results?