Study: Life Expectancy High Among Chareidim

The main street of Rabbi Akiva, in the Ultra Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, central Israel, on July 16, 2015. (Flash90)
The main street of Rabbi Akiva, in the Ultra Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, central Israel, on July 16, 2015. (Flash90)

“Life expectancy is substantially higher than would be expected in cities with a high concentration of chareidim, such as Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh,” proclaims the just-published annual report of The Taub Center for Social Policy.

The researchers were surprised at the data, “given these cities’ low socioeconomic status,” which was an indicator of relatively lower life expectancy elsewhere in Israel. On average, life expectancy was up to three years higher in these three communities than would be expected based on their socioeconomic status.

The Taub Center attributed the result to “high levels of social capital, as expressed in a high number of social relationships, high levels of satisfaction with family relationships, strong social support systems and high levels of volunteering.”

The study also linked self-reporting of good health to high social capital.

Some 73.6% of chareidim consider their health to be “very good,” in contrast to only 50% among other segments of the population. Only 18.7% of chareidim reported that they suffered from a health problem of any kind, compared to double that figure or more among other population groups, the report said.

The authors of the report qualified the last item, however, noting that “these findings may be related to social norms that frown on complaining, particularly to people from outside of their community.”

As for the overall “State of the Nation,” which is the title of the report, they offered a picture about as bleak as other reports published by the government and NGOs in recent days.

Based on an analysis of disposable income (after transfer allowances and direct tax payments) overall poverty and inequality rates in Israel are among the highest of Western countries.

The findings also confirmed what was already well-known to Israelis, that the cost of living — whether measured in apartment prices or cottage cheese, a notorious example — is exorbitantly high. Comparing Israel with other countries over a 25-year period, with adjustment for exchange-rate fluctuations, “Israel’s prices were higher than would be expected in all but four of the years,” they said.

Why the researchers were surprised by this was not clear.

The elderly suffer from poverty more than the younger population. Amng the population age 66 and over, disposable income poverty rates in Israel are substantially higher than in OECD countries.