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25.10.18

Premature mortality is double in UK’s most deprived areas as new health study reveals worrying health inequality

The rates of premature mortality are two times higher in England’s most deprived areas compared to the most affluent areas, a new report analysing health standards locally and nationally has found.

Rates of premature mortality were found to be consistently higher for the 15 most deprived areas of England – which includes Blackpool, Surrey and Wokingham – compared to the 15 most deprived.

The study from the Global Burden of Disease initiative has been investigating premature mortality, disability and risk factors across the UK and analysing health standards regionally.

Using data from 1990 to 2016 for 150 upper-tier local authorities in England, as well as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the study aims to use the information to inform resource allocation and priorities at a local and national level.

The study found that half of all premature deaths are linked to risk factors such as alcohol and drug use, obesity, tobacco, diet and high blood pressure, pointing towards the “urgent need for policies and programmes targeting prevention.”

The biggest cause of premature death in 2016 was ischaemic heart disease, and rates were two times higher for men than in women, with self-harm as the third leading cause for men.

Areas in Manchester and Liverpool performed far worse on health indicators compared to similarly deprived areas in London and Birmingham, which, the report says, highlights “the stark division between rich and poor areas, which sees poorer people dying earlier and getting sicker quicker.”

The authors suggest that Londoners’ relatively better health is down to better access to healthcare and lower levels of risk factors, and suggest that the differences in health nationwide are mostly down to variations in deprivation and risk factors rather than differences in health service spending.

Professor John Newton, author and director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “It also shows the improvements to health that could be achieved by addressing underlying causes, such as poverty, education and other resources needed for good health.”

Overall, life expectancy has improved in all four countries of the UK, but the rate of improvement has slowed since 2010.

“As death rates decrease, people continue to live with long-term, often multiple, conditions,” said Professor Nicholas Steel, lead author of the study.

Steel added: “Our findings show a significant shift from mortality to morbidity, yet our health services are still designed to deal with the big killers. Today, conditions such as back and neck pain and anxiety and depression are huge causes of disability in the UK.”

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