Class and health inequality in later life: Patterns, mechanisms and implications for policy

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The growth of the post-retirement population, which has occurred as a result of rapid growth in life expectancy coupled with the ageing of the baby boomer cohort, has led to significant concern. This concern, however, typically neglects the heterogeneity of later life experiences and how these are patterned by inequalities that reflect how process of social stratification continue to operate into later life. This paper draws on a programme of work, based on analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, to empirically examine questions of inequality in later life. It begins by illustrating the patterning of health inequality. It then investigates the importance of later life contexts and events in shaping inequality through and after the retirement process. In doing so it examines the extent to which later life continues to reflect stable social structures that shape inequalities and, consequently, health and wellbeing in later life. The paper then illustrates how the effects of socioeconomic position on health in later life can be theorised as a product of class processes, borrowing in part from Bourdieu. Other dimensions of inequality, such as gender, ethnicity, area and sexuality, are not discussed here. The paper concludes with a discussion of the need for a close focus on inequalities in later life in research, policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1533
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017


  • Class
  • Health
  • Inequality
  • Later life
  • Retirement
  • Social participation
  • Wellbeing

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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