Healthy life expectancy (HLE) - the number of years people can be expected to live in good health - can be boosted by up to seven years if adults give up smoking, says new research from Cass Business School, City of London, and the Institute of Ageing at Oxford University.
Les Mayhew, Professor of Statistics and Ben Rickayzen from Cass Business School, collaborated with Dr Martin Karlsson, Oxford University, to investigate the prospects for healthy retirement using the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). They also compared the impact of non-smoking on good health in Sweden, where smoking in public places was banned in 2005. The researchers differentiated between people who were smokers or non-smokers, whether or not they lived with a partner, owned their own home, were educated and whether they were healthy or disabled at the outset. The study found that:
· On average, a non-smoker aged 50 can expect to be healthy for another 26.3 years but a smoker only for another 19.5 years.
· Although males have a much lower survival probability than females, gender makes less of a difference when it comes to having good health.
· The group with the longest HLE comprises cohabiting non-smoking females who live in their own homes, were educated to at least GCE level, and who are fit and healthy at 50 years old. Their HLE at 50 is 32.3 years, and 83% of the group can expect to be healthy at retirement age 60, 77% at retirement age 65, and 71% at retirement age 70.
· Smoking was by far the strongest factor negatively affecting both survival prospects and health.
· Living together is weakly associated with both higher survival probability and good health in both males and females.
There are strong regional variations in health and survival probabilities, with the South (excluding London) reporting generally better health than the rest of the country. Regional variations in survival prospects and health are much more pronounced for men than for women.
Professor Les Mayhew says: “With the smoking ban taking effect next month, the research suggests that people will spend a greater proportion of their life in a healthy condition. This can only be good news for work and for retirement.”
Dr Martin Karlsson, a Research Fellow in the Institute of Ageing at Oxford University, says: "Our research shows that one of the main factors behind socioeconomic inequalities in health is differences in the prevalence of smoking. Evidence from other countries which have implemented a smoking ban indicates that fewer people are smoking. Hence, the smoking ban can be expected to contribute to reduced health inequalities."
The study concentrated on people aged 50+, and the academics developed a model based on individual circumstances and reported health over a 15 year period. They estimated the probability of movement into and out of disability, and the mortality risk for different combinations of personal characteristics.