Manual workers suffer chronic illnesses associated with ageing 20 years earlier than their bosses, according to research from University College London.
The English Longitudinal Study on Ageing, based on monitoring 12,000 people over more than 20 years, has revealed that a third of manual workers aged 50 to 59 suffer from chronic illnesses that do not affect their bosses until they are over 75.
Further reinforcing the link between low income and long-term ill health, rates of heart disease and mental health problems were found to be much higher among manual workers than among professional classes. The survey also found people in poorer households were more likely to have a poor diet and smoke.
Social policy expert, Professor Hilary Graham, told BBC News Online that the situation could be improved: "…we know what can be achieved because of the high levels of health of the bosses, who are working in the same industry - we can look at what advantages they have got and make them more widely available. One of these could be better working conditions."