CWiPP Annual Lecture: Age, well-being and inequality

Professor James Nazroo

CWiPP held its Annual Lecture on 7th May 2014 in the Jessop West Exhibition Space followed by an informal reception. The lecture was delivered by Professor James Nazroo who spoke on age, well-being and inequality.

Retirement from the workforce in industrialised societies has historically been seen as a transition into an economically dependent situation coupled with declines in social status and health. This focus on older people as dependent, however, neglects evidence of improvements in mental health in the period around retirement age, suggesting that for some, at least, the transition into a ‘retired’ status is a positive experience. Indeed, there is a growing recognition that Laslett’s description of the ‘Third Age’ as post-work life characterised by opportunity, leisure and self-fulfilment, is a reality for many. This shift in focus from dependent to healthy and wealthy agentic older people, though, neglects marked inequalities between older people. Intergeneratonal inequality – comparing the situation of older people with younger people – has been the focus of much recent policy discussion, but it is important to address inequalities within the older population.

Professor Nazroo examined inequalities in well-being in later life with a particular focus on identifying the influence of factors that moderate the relationship between well-being and age. The explanations for these age-related changes and inequalities were framed around the possibilities that they are a consequence of diverse trajectories carrying differing implications for post-retirement experiences. More broadly, he argued that later-life experiences continue to be shaped by social class.


James Nazroo is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR), and co-Director of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), all at the University of Manchester. He initially trained in Medicine and Sociology, then studied at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College for a MSc in Sociology of Health and Illness (1989), and finally studied for his PhD in Sociology at UCL (1999). Before coming to Manchester, he was Professor of Medical Sociology at UCL.

Issues of inequality have been the primary focus of his research activities, which have centred on gender, ethnicity, ageing, and the intersections between these. His research on ageing has been concerned to understand the patterns and determinants of social and health inequalities in ageing populations, with a particular interest on the ‘transmission’ of inequalities across the lifecourse, patterns of ‘retirement’, formal and informal social and civic participation, and how class operates post-retirement. He has conducted studies on quality of life for older people among different ethnic groups in the UK, on inequalities in health at older ages, and on routes into retirement and the impact of retirement on health and well-being. He is PI of the fRaill programme, an interdisciplinary study of inequalities in later life, and co-PI of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, which is a multi-disciplinary panel study of those aged 50 and older, and part of an international ‘family’ of very similar studies.