How to live as long as the rich

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A recent study released in the U.K. revealed that the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor is widening. At age 65, men in the highest socio-economic group are living, on average, 3.5 years longer than those in the lowest socio-economic group. Twenty years ago, this difference in life expectancy was just 2.3 years.

Similar gaps in life expectancy have been reported in the United States, Canada, and Finland. Is this another instance where life is unfairly stacked in favor of the privileged?

Maybe not, but the reasons are instructive. The U.K. study attributed the differences in life expectancy to factors completely within an individual's control, factors that aren't related to wealth: smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption. Another study that was published in the British Medical Journal study concurred, noting that when differences in smoking are considered, there's no difference in life expectancy between the rich and poor.

Want to live like the rich? Then stop smoking, control your weight through diet and exercise, and limit your consumption of alcohol. Easier said than done, I know, but that's the reality. And I'm sure you've heard these recommendations before -- the latest insight is that here's an area where you have the power to put yourself on the same playing field as the rich.

There's another benefit to making these changes: You'll save lots of money by following these guidelines. Then invest the savings, and you'll be richer as well!

  • Steve Vernon On Twitter»

    View all articles by Steve Vernon on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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