Stagnating wages and benefit cuts sees falling life expectancy in poorest communities
A “perfect storm” of stagnating wages and benefits cuts has led to the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the England widening, according to new research.
A new study, published on Thursday evening, also found that life expectancy for the country’s poorest women has fallen by three months since 2011.
Researchers at Imperial College London analysed Office for National Statistics data on all 7.65 million deaths recorded in England between 2001 and 2016.
They found the life expectancy gap between people living in the most affluent and most deprived areas increased from 6.1 years to 7.9 years for women and from 9.0 to 9.8 years in men between 2001 and 2016.
The life expectancy of women in the most deprived communities in 2016 was 78.8 years, compared to 86.7 years in the most affluent group.
For men, the life expectancy was 74.0 years among the poorest, compared to 83.8 years among the richest.
The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in the Lancet Public Health, also revealed the life expectancy of women in the poorest sectors of society has dropped by 0.24 years since 2011.
Senior author Professor Majid Ezzati said a “perfect storm” of factors including stagnating incomes and falling benefits was leading to poor people dying younger.
He added: “Falling life expectancy in the poorest communities is a deeply worrying indicator of the state of our nation’s health and shows that we are leaving the most vulnerable out of the collective gain.
“We currently have a perfect storm of factors that can impact on health, and that are leading to poor people dying younger.
“The funding squeeze for health and cuts to local government services since 2010 have also had a significant impact on the most deprived communities, leading to treatable diseases such as cancer being diagnosed too late or people dying sooner from conditions like dementia.”
The researchers also investigated which illnesses had contributed to the widening life expectancy gap.
They found that newborn deaths and children’s diseases, respiratory diseases, heart disease, lung and digestive cancers, and dementia led to a larger loss in longevity in poorer areas compared to rich ones.
Children under five-years-old from the poorest sectors of society were two-and-a-half times more likely to die as children from affluent families in 2016, the report said.
Prof Ezzati said the researcher suggested poor people were dying of preventable diseases and called for more investment health and social care in those areas.
He added: “This study suggests the poor in England are dying from diseases that can be prevented and treated.
“We also need government and industry action to eradicate food insecurity and make healthy food choices more affordable, so that the quality of a family’s diet isn’t dictated by their income.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our Secretary of State’s recent prevention vision clearly sets out this Government’s ambition to help everyone lead a longer, healthier life as part of our long-term plan for the NHS.
“We’re taking action by addressing the root causes of poor health, promoting healthier lifestyles and tackling inequalities in health access and outcomes. Since 2010, one million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty, including 300,000 children.”
The analysis looked at where each death occurred and matched them to lower super output areas which have a population of about 1,500.
These are each given a deprivation score by the ONS and researchers said the conclusions are based on comparisons looked at the deprivation and affluence of communities not individuals.
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