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England's Poorest Residents Get 19 Fewer Years of Good Health Than Its Richest

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Universal good health and well-being is one of the UN's Global Goals, and that means everyone — regardless of where they're born — should have access to a healthy lifestyle and adequate health care. But in England, as this report shows, this equality is yet to become a reality. You can join us by taking action for the Global Goals here

People living in England’s richest areas will get 19 more years of good health than those living in the country’s most deprived areas. 

That massive social inequality is revealed in a new report, published Tuesday by Public Health England (PHE). 

The Health Profile for England report is described as the most comprehensive picture of health in England today, and it paints a picture of privilege that just shouldn’t exist in 2018. 

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Life expectancy has generally increased in recent decades — and has now reached an average of 83.2 years for women and 79.6 years for men.

But life expectancy is “not uniform across England and inequalities exist,” according to the report. 

“If neighbourhood areas within England are ranked from most to least deprived and then organised into 10 groups, life expectancy increases in each group as the level of deprivation decreases. In other words, there is a ‘social gradient’ in health,” it adds. 

Most of the life expectancy gap can be attributed to higher mortality rates in the most deprived areas from health problems such as heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. 

People in the most deprived areas were more than twice as likely to die prematurely from cancer compared with those in the least deprived areas, in 2014 to 2016. 

And they were almost four times as likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease — an inequality that has widened “significantly” since 2010 to 2012.

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These diseases are mainly linked to lifestyle, according to the report, with smoking and obesity being the main risk factors.

The report also cites suicide as another cause of the unequal life expectancy.

“The most deprived areas of England have the highest mortality from suicide. In 2014 to 2016, people in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to die from suicide compared with those in the least deprived areas, and there has been no change in this inequality since 2010 to 2012.” 

But inequality doesn’t only lie in life expectancy. 

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People living in the most deprived areas of England spend nearly a third of their lives in poor health, compared with about a sixth for those living in the least deprived areas, according to the report. 

“As a society, people are living longer but often in poorer health and stubborn inequalities persist,” it said. “Good health is about much more than good health care — a high-quality education, a warm home, and a good job are just as important to a healthy standard of living.” 

The report also notes that inequality “begins early in life with wide inequalities in child health outcomes.” 

It cited, for example, that children in the most deprived areas are two times as likely to be born with a low birthweight in 2014 to 2016, with no change from 2010 to 2012. 

The infant mortality rate was also over twice as high. In fact, according to the report, if the poorest areas of England had the same infant mortality rate as the richest areas, there would have been 873 fewer infant deaths in 2014 to 2016. 

And if all areas across England had the same infant mortality rate as the least deprived areas, there would have been 2,211 fewer infant deaths in total.  

“Inequalities in health undermine not only the health of the people, but also our economy,” said Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE, according to the Independent

“As we work to develop the NHS long term plan, we must set the ambition high,” he added. “If done right, with prevention at its centrepiece, the payoff of a healthier society and more sustainable NHS will be huge.”