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18 April 2016

France: life expectancy varies considerably according to social class

Life expectancy in France varies widely between different social classes. At 35 years old, a manager can hope to live for another 49 years, compared to only 42.6 years for manual workers. A similar phenomenon can be observed in relation to different levels of qualification.

In February, the French National Statistics Institute INSEE released data on developments in life expectancy over the period 1976-2013. In spite of improvements in life expectancy for the general population over the past four decades, there remain considerable variations between occupational categories. In the late 1970s, the disparity between male blue-collar workers and male managers was 6 years. By 2013, the gap had widened to 6.4 years. Social inequalities are less pronounced among women: life expectancy for female workers is 85 years, against 88 years for female managers.

Similar results were observed when considering qualification levels. In the period 2009-2013, a 35 year-old man with a higher education qualification could expect a lifespan 7.5 years longer than a man without formal qualifications. For women, the gap was 4.2 years.

In explaining the difference in life expectancy between professional groups, researchers pointed to the nature of different occupations ("managers are less exposed to occupational risks such as work-related accidents and diseases or exposure to toxic products") and different ways of living ("obesity is less common among managers than among blue-collar workers").

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