Opinion: Life is not fair

POSTED: 11/28/12 2:20 PM

We have known for quite some time that life is not fair (mind you: we’re not complaining, just stating a fact) and now we have confirmation from the Central Bureau for Statistics in the Netherlands. The bureau published figures from last year showing that rich people live longer than poor people.

For men the difference is on average 8 years and for women 7 years.

The difference in healthy years of life is an astonishing 18 years. The average life expectancy was 82.9 years for women in 2011, and 79.2 years for men.

Life expectancy for years spent in a healthy condition is for men in the lowest income group at birth 53.4 years and for women 53.2 years.

Men and women with a high income expect to be living in healthy conditions on average for 71.1 years.

And it is not only about physical health; the mental health of people with a higher income is also better. This makes us think that low income earners will be hit sooner by diseases like Alzheimer’s than high income earners.

The CBS did not give an explanation for the differences, though they are not hard to determine. Low income earners are doing different jobs – often physically challenging work – than high income earners. Due to their income, their housing conditions are in general poorer. Probably the most damaging aspect of all is to be found in the difference in eating habits.

Rich people eat healthier – at least: they are able to afford eating healthy food – than poor people who have a tendency to buy cheap high-calorie food. That leads to overweight, in some cases to obesity, and in any case to related health problems. Poor people’s access to expert medical services is obviously also limited.

There are thinkers who maintain that being poor is a choice. In the extreme they maintain that everything is a choice, and up to a point this is true. The choice to rebel at school, and the choice not to pay attention at school is an act of free will, but it has potentially dire consequences, as the CBS-figures show.

It is easy to see the value of such an assessment, but making children aware of this is another story. As long as (some) school children keep making poor choices, they are setting themselves up for failure later on in life. Suggestions, anyone?

 

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