• Richest people in Britain are living up to eight years longer than the poorest
  • Scientists have announced a possible reason – it’s all down to our hormones
  • Researchers found that men from poor and uneducated backgrounds have lower levels of testosterone than their well-off counterparts

menThe link between wealth and health in Britain is well established, with the richest of us living up to eight years longer than the poorest.

Now scientists have announced a possible reason — and it all comes down to our hormones.

Researchers found that men from poor and uneducated backgrounds have lower levels of testosterone than their well-off counterparts.

 

The study at University College London showed that those with the lowest household income — defined as less than £6,000 a year — had 10 per cent lower testosterone levels than men earning £30,000 or more.

Low testosterone has been linked to depression, osteoporosis, weight gain and loss of muscle.

The study of 1,880 British men and women also revealed that women whose parents were unskilled workers have testosterone levels 15 per cent higher than women whose parents had professional jobs.

That leaves them more at risk of early puberty, infertility and polycystic ovaries.

Those with the least education also have low levels of cortisol — which can lead to pain, depression, insomnia and heart palpitations — and depleted levels of IGF proteins (insulin-like growth factor). Low levels are linked to an increased risk of cancer and reduced mental abilities.

Women with no qualifications were found to have 16 per cent less IGF than women with degrees.

Men from the same background have eight per cent less than better-off males.

Professor Diana Kuh, of the Medical Research Council’s Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘In the UK, substantial health inequalities exist. We found socio-economic disadvantage across life, based on father’s social class and the study member’s education, social class and income, was associated with an adverse hormone profile.

‘These hormones are thought to work together to ensure healthy development and also have many different roles in regulating health in older age.

‘These socio-economic differences in hormone systems may play a role in explaining social inequalities in health as we age.

‘Hormones may be affected by exposure across life to stress, adverse events, health problems and obesity, and unhealthy lifestyles such as physical inactivity, poor diet and smoking.

‘We are examining the impact of these hormone differences in explaining inequalities in physical and mental functioning in older age.’

Past studies have revealed that poverty is associated with increased risks of respiratory, cardiovascular, rheumatic and psychiatric diseases, as well as leading to low birth weights and higher infant mortality.

And scientists also believe that the stress of having a poor social support network and an uncertain future can increase the rate of molecular damage in the body.

Dr David Bann, of the Institute of Education at UCL, said: ‘Our study shows that people from a disadvantaged background are biologically different, which could explain health inequalities.

‘These hormone levels change with age, so it could potentially explain difference rates of ageing.’

Professor Kuh said the findings suggested that ‘reducing inequalities could have powerful benefits in improving the health of the population and in reducing healthcare expenditure


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