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Rich-poor mortality gap widens, new report says

Life expectancy diverges between England's wealthiest and poorest neighbourhoods

by Amy Ripley (Senior Communications Officer)

New research from the Longevity Science Panel (LSP) shows life expectancy diverging between England’s wealthiest and poorest neighbourhoods since 2001. This widening gap in outcomes applies to children born today and to people already in older age.

A boy born in one of the most advantaged 20 per cent of neighbourhoods in 2015 can now expect to outlive his counterpart, born in one of the least advantaged 20 per cent of neighbourhoods, by 8.4 years. In 2001, that gap was 7.2 years. For girls, the difference has risen from 5 years to 5.8 years over the same period.

A sixty-year-old man living in the most advantaged 20 per cent of neighbourhoods could expect to live 4.1 years longer than his counterpart from the least advantaged 20 per cent in 2001, increasing to 5.0 years longer in 2015. A sixty-year-old women living in the most advantaged 20 per cent of neighbourhoods could expect to live 3.1 years longer than her counterpart in the least advantaged 20 per cent in 2001, increasing to 4.2 years longer in 2015.

Death rates for people aged 60-89 improved for all groups between 2001 and 2015. However, the improvement was greatest for the best-off. The most advantaged fifth of older men experienced a reduction in death rates of 32 per cent, compared with 20 per cent for the least advantaged fifth. Women in this age group experienced a 29 per cent fall in death rates for the most advantaged fifth, and 11 per cent for the least advantaged fifth.

Differing improvement rates meant that by 2015, men aged 60-89 from the least advantaged fifth of the country were 80 per cent more likely to die in any given year than those from the most advantaged fifth. This figure has climbed from 52 per cent in 2001. The equivalent figures for women are 44 per cent in 2001 and 81 per cent in 2015.

The LSP’s analysis shows that, of the many factors comprising the Index of Multiple Deprivation, income levels have the most powerful influence over neighbourhood death rates.

Commenting on the research, LSP’s Dame Karen Dunnell 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.”

Co-author, Professor Steve Haberman, Professor of Actuarial Sciences, Cass Business School said:

“Our main finding is that the socioeconomic gap in life expectancy in England has widened over the last 15 years. This has happened despite life expectancy increasing across all sections of the population - it is clear that some groups are being left behind. As the population ages, these inequalities are likely to increase further. To solve this problem, we will need better coordinated policies involving central and local government, civil society and the private sector”.

The report authors were:

Read the full paper here.

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