Why do rich people in France live much longer than the country's poorest?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 8 Feb, 2018 Updated Thu 8 Feb 2018 10:46 CEST
Why do rich people in France live much longer than the country's poorest?

France's richest people live up to 13 years longer than the poorest, according to a new study. But in a country with a reputation for great healthcare, why is this the case?


The recent study was conducted by national statistics agency Insee who say it is the first time the impact of personal wealth on life expectancy in France has been researched.
And the results are eye-opening.
The study shows that the richest 5 percent of men in France enjoy a life expectancy of up to 13 years longer than the poorest 5 percent.
And while the disparity between women in the same groups is lower, it is still eight years, according to the report. 

French enjoy longest retirement in the developed worldA man paddling in Nice, southern France. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

However, the study shows that one of the main reasons behind the findings is that the less well-off in France are more likely to suffer health problems and have less access to healthcare. 
This slightly undermines France's global reputation for having its universal healthcare system but it isn't the first time the issue has come to light. 
For example, according to a 2014 survey, 11 percent of adults in the bottom 20 percent said they had given up consulting a doctor in the last 12 months for financial reasons, compared to 1 percent of adults in the top 20 percent.
In France most patients have to pay up front to see a doctor with the fee having risen recently from €23 to 25 euros while the cost of seeing a specialist can be a lot more. Costs are then refunded partly by the state and partly by insurance schemes known as "mutuelles" which need to be paid for. 
However it would be unfair to blame deficiencies in the health system entirely, with the report making it clear that there are many contributing factors. 
These include indirect factors such as where people live and their level of education that have an indirect effect on health, the report says. 
In France, differences in life expectancy also exist between regions.
People in the Pays de la Loire in the west, Occitanie in southern France and the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France have the highest life expectancy. 
In Paris women can expect to live to 85.9 years while men live to 80.8.
Meanwhile the Hauts-de-France and Normandy in the north of the country are the French regions where life expectancy is at its lowest. 
In the Hauts-de-France life expectancy for women is 83.6 years while for men it's 76.9 while in Normandy women have a life expectancy of 84.5 while men can expect to live to 78. 
Map: AFP
For Marie Reynaud who is in charge of studies relating to demography at INSEE these disparities "can be explained by differences in eating habits, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, pollution and the environment, and also in the provision of care" in different regions.
On top of that, studies show that people who graduated from university have fewer habits that put them "at risk". 
And this is particularly clear when you compare the smoking habits, with 39 percent of those without a degree smoking daily, compared to only 21 percent of graduates (among French people aged 15 to 64), according to the 2016 Health Barometer.
The INSEE study also shows, less surprisingly, that "with or without a degree, the higher the standard of living, the higher the life expectancy". 
In other words, while education is a contributing factor, income is more important in indicating life expectancy. 


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