Rich people live longer than poor, even in countries with low inequality - study

Rich people live longer than the poor, new research has found.

And the difference is significant, even in a relatively egalitarian country like Norway.

Researchers looked at 10 years of data and found the richest 1 percent of women live 8.4 years longer than the poorest 1 percent. For men, the difference is even bigger - 13.8 years.

And while life expectancy is improving for the wealthy, the same can't be said for the poor. Between 2005 and 2015 wealthy men and women saw their life expectancy increase just over three years, while for men it only went up one year, and for women, it fell by a few months.

Rich women could expect to live to 86.4 years, and men 84.4 years. The poorest women averaged 78 years, and men, only 70.6.

Norway is ranked the fourth-most equal country in the OECD.

"Despite this ranking, there are pronounced inequalities in health in Norway regarding income, education, and occupation, similar to inequalities observed in other high-income countries," the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said.

People with university education were more likely to be in the higher earning groups, and lived longer than others in the same income group without a university education.

The biggest causes of life expectancy differences between the rich and poor were cardiovascular disease, smoking and substance abuse.

Comparing the results to the US, which has much greater inequality, the researchers found while the rich in both countries have about the same life expectancy, Norway's poor and middle-income earners lived longer than their American equivalents.

The researchers put this down to Norway's "largely tax-funded public health care system", which the US doesn't have, and "more evenly distributed income and wealth".

New Zealand ranks closer to the US than Norway when it comes to inequality. Our present life expectancy at birth is 83 for women and 79 for men.