Health

Life expectancy gap between rich and poor widens

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The life expectancy gap between England's richest and poorest neighbourhoods has widened since 2001, a report says.

On average, a boy born in one of the most affluent areas will outlive one born in one of the poorest by 8.4 years.

That was up from 7.2 years in 2001, the Longevity Science Panel (LSP) found.

The government said it was tackling the issue, and added cancer survival rates were "at an all-time high".

The LSP report said the results were concerning and required further investigation to understand the causes.

But its authors said income inequality was the biggest factor.

'Most unfair outcome'

The LSP looked at data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2015.

This divides England into 33,000 residential areas which are rated on a range of factors, such as income levels, health, education and crime.

It found that death rates for 60 to 89-year-olds had improved for all socio-economic groups between 2001 and 2015, but the biggest gains were recorded among the most well-off.

The result is that men and women in that age group, who were from the least advantaged fifth of the country, are now about 80% more likely than those from the most advantaged fifth to die in any given year, it said.

In 2001 the higher chance of older people dying if they lived in a poor area, compared to a wealthy one, was lower at just 52% for men and 41% for women.

Dame Karen Dunnell, chair of the LSP, said: "Dying earlier if you are poor is the most unfair outcome of all, so we should all be concerned about the growing divergence in rich-poor life expectancy.

"To reduce the risk of further widening, we need better understanding of the precise causes, followed by co-ordinated policy initiatives across health, work, welfare, pension and housing to improve outcomes for all," she added.

The study also found:

  • Girls born in the top fifth of areas on average live 5.8 years longer than those born in the bottom 20% – up from a five-year gap in 2001
  • For a 60-year-old man the difference is five years – up from 4.1 in 2001
  • For women of the same age it is 4.2 years – up from 3.1

The report also found there had been a slowing down in the long-standing trend for improvement in mortality rates, for all groups since 2011, which it said could be linked to cuts to public spending in the NHS and social care sector.

Differences in income, smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption, as well as different rates of uptake of preventive health services and treatment rates for diseases, could explain the difference in life expectancy across socio-economic groups, it said.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Health inequality is a challenging and complex area, but we are committed to tackling this issue.

"Cancer survival rates are at a record high and smoking rates are at an all-time low, but we know there is still too much variation."

They added £16bn is being invested in local government public health services.

The LSP was set up by the insurance provider Legal and General to look at how various factors affect life expectancy.

Original Article

BBC

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