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Social class in later lifePower, identity and lifestyle$
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Marvin Formosa and Paul Higgs

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781447300588

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447300588.001.0001

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Class and health inequalities in later life

Class and health inequalities in later life

(p.113) Seven Class and health inequalities in later life
Social class in later life

Ian Rees Jones

Paul Higgs

Policy Press

For over sixty years significant research activity has addressed the extent to which the effects of social class over the life-course have determined or contributed to an individual's economic and social fate in old age. This has led to the elaboration and discussion of a whole host of conceptual and measurement issues among a growing body of epidemiological and social researchers. To these we must add, in light of the social changes and accompanying theoretical developments over the same period, questions about the viability of class as a means of understanding social relations and social inequality in contemporary society. This chapter interrogates these issues as they relate to the role of class in later life using the prism of health inequalities. In so doing, it will be argued that the wider implications of the emergence of a relatively lengthy post-working life have not been fully incorporated into studies of class and health in old age. This is a major lacuna given that the generations entering retirement today in affluent countries are precisely those who have experienced the social changes that have both increased prosperity and the questioning of the salience of class in wider society. Two key questions are raised: firstly, how best to describe and explain patterns of social class inequalities in health over the life course and secondly, what class means in later life and how it can be conceptualised in relation to a population that may have been out of the workforce for many decades.

Keywords:   social change, sociological theory, health inequalities, class, retirement

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