England’s Life Expectancy Gap Is Growing

Men living in the most deprived areas of England are dying almost a decade earlier on average than those in the richest areas, official statistics show.

The 9.7-year gap, based on data from 2018 to 2020, is an increase of roughly 110 days on results from 2015 to 2017.

Covid-19, which has disproportionately impacted the most deprived communities, is thought to be a major factor in the increase.

For women, the average gap in life expectancy was 7.9 years between those in the most and least deprived areas. This is an increase of around six months.

The results are not completely comparable, however, as 2015 to 2017’s data also includes figures for Wales.

Hospital leaders have called for “urgent action” against these “entrenched and unjustifiable” health inequalities.

National Health Service Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said: “The current cost of living crisis and the widening health inequalities gap underline the importance of urgent, concerted action on the wider determinants of health, alongside work to ensure health services are equitable and fair.”

Meaningful change, she added, can only be achieved through collaboration that addresses “all the factors which contribute to people’s health, including poverty.”

Assistant director of healthy lives at British NGO the Health Foundation David Finch described the difference in life expectancy as “staggering.”

The data “shows the uneven impact of the pandemic with greater falls in life expectancy in the poorest areas of England compared to the wealthiest,” he said.

The data, from the Office of National Statistics, also showed that men and women in the most deprived areas of England spent far more years in poor health than those in richer parts of the country.

“Girls born in the poorest areas of England live 19 fewer years in good health than those born in the wealthiest,” Finch added.

Reducing these “stark” inequalities, he said, “requires a fundamental shift towards a whole-government approach that actively improves the conditions needed to create good health, such as adequate incomes to cope with the rising cost of living, secure jobs and decent housing.”

Inequalities expert Prof Michael Marmot, who is director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, wrote in a recent Guardian article that the pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities in health.

“In the decade before the pandemic, improvement in health in the UK slowed dramatically, inequalities increased, and health for the poorest people got worse. This was all amplified by the pandemic,” he wrote.

“Unless we deal with the inability of people to meet their basic needs, by adequate income and services, we are in danger of inflicting a humanitarian calamity in one of the richest countries in the world.”