Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Older people 'spend more on basics'

The amount of money older people spending on domestic fuel has soared by a third in real terms over the past five years, says study

The amount of money older people spend on essential items such as food and fuel has "increased significantly" during the past five years, a study suggested.

A quarter of households aged over 50 in England saw a jump of 10% or more in the amount they spent on basic items between 2004/05 and 2008/09, with spending on domestic fuel soaring by a third in real terms.

Unsurprisingly, the poorest households have been most affected by the rising cost of living, according to the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: "Food and fuel make up a considerable proportion of elderly people's budgets so any price increases tend to have a significant effect on those households.

"Spending on basics as a percentage of income can be used as a yardstick for welfare and the report shows that the poorest fifth of the population were 17 percentage points more likely to experience a substantial increase in the share of their income devoted to basics over this period than the richest fifth of the population."

Despite the recession, that was beginning at the time the data was collected, there was an increase in the number of people aged between 55 and 69 who were working, particularly among those who were working part-time. People were most likely to retire early due to poor health, or because they were wealthy and belonged to a defined benefit pension scheme.

Older people were more likely to work on beyond the state pension age if they had higher educational qualifications, were in good health or had a partner who was also in work.

The study also found there had been a rise in sedentary behaviour among those aged over 50, with a marked increase in both waist size and weight since the research was last carried out.

Less wealthy people were also likely to have higher levels of obesity, were more likely to smoke, while they took less exercise and ate less fruit and vegetables than those who were better off. They were also more likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes.

Around 43% of women from the poorest fifth of households were obese, compared with only 28% among the wealthiest fifth, while only 39% of men in the bottom fifth of households ate five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, compared with 61% among the richest fifth.

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