Working-age adults in most deprived areas ‘3.7 times more likely to die with coronavirus’
Working-age adults in England’s poorest areas are more than three times as likely to die with coronavirus than those in the wealthiest parts of the country, research has found.
Health and wealth are “inextricably connected”, the Health Foundation said, with the Covid-19 mortality rate 3.7 times higher for under-65s living in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods.
The charity analysed data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and other sources between March 2020 and May 2021.
Its nine-month inquiry found that people in these areas had poorer underlying health which left them at greater risk when the pandemic hit.
Adults in their 50s and 60s living in the poorest areas were twice as likely to have at least two pre-existing long-term health conditions, such as lung disease or diabetes, according to analysis of primary care data.
The inquiry found that the way the UK recovered following the 2008 financial crisis had a “direct bearing” on the country’s resilience to the pandemic.
With public services “eroded”, it said stalling improvements in life expectancy and deepening inequalities over the next decade left the UK more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic.
Factors such as the type and quality of people’s employment, housing conditions and access to financial support to self-isolate contributed to increased exposure to the virus among certain groups, it found.
Once exposed, people’s pre-existing physical and mental health made them more vulnerable to severe outcomes.
The researchers found that male security guards, care workers and taxi drivers were more likely to die with coronavirus.
People from ethnic minority communities, young or disabled people, and those with mental health conditions in particular experienced “worsening and compounding inequalities” which increased their exposure to the virus and threatened their future health.
But the Health Foundation said these risks to health are “far from inevitable” and can be addressed by a recovery plan that focuses on fairness.
Director of health Jo Bibby said the shortcomings of the response to the 2008 financial crisis left a “legacy of deep-rooted issues” which made the UK more vulnerable to the pandemic.
She said: “We cannot afford to make the same mistake twice. Government must address the root causes of poor health and invest in jobs, housing, education and communities. This is the only way to create a healthier society that can meet the challenge ahead and better withstand future crises.
“Ministers across Government should work together to put health at the heart of the forthcoming levelling up strategy, with clear targets and a regular, independent assessment of the nation’s health laid before Parliament.”
Polling for the charity in June found that eight in 10 people believe it is important for the Government to address differences in health outcomes between those living in richer and poorer areas as the country rebuilds from the pandemic.
The Health Foundation is calling for the Government to prevent “longer-term scarring effects” by tackling the healthcare backlog, increasing mental health support, protecting family finances, creating jobs, and helping people catch up on education and training.
And it wants to see better resilience for the longer term, including an adequate safety net, better protections for low-paid workers, and more investment in public services to focus on prevention.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chairwoman of the Covid-19 impact inquiry and chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The legacy of the pandemic is all around us in terms of unmet health need, mental health problems, gaps in educational attainment, loss of employment and financial insecurity.
“If we are to avoid these issues leaving long-term scarring on our communities, it’s time to make a choice about how we move forward and where we invest.
“This is our chance to close the chapter on the remnants of the financial crisis response and build back better and fairer.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Any death is a tragedy and we know Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on certain groups including people living in deprived areas which is why Public Health England carried out a rapid review to help improve our understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic and guide the future public health response.
“There is a range of help available for those in need, including welfare support, the furlough scheme and the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme to help those experiencing financial hardship, and cannot work from home, to self-isolate.
“The new Office for Health Promotion will lead national efforts to level up the health of the nation by tackling obesity, improving mental health and promoting physical activity and we are offering a vaccine to all adults in England to help protect them and their loved ones from Covid-19.”
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