Rates of premature mortality are two times higher in the most deprived areas of England, compared to the most affluent areas, according to new research published in The Lancet.
Rates of premature mortality from all causes were more than two times higher in the most deprived local authority area in England (Blackpool), compared to the most affluent (Wokingham, Surrey, Windsor and Maidenhead, and West Berkshire).
While overall rates of premature death have improved since 1990, half of all premature deaths in 2016 were linked to risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, alcohol and drug use, obesity and high blood pressure.
The researchers found that ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death in the UK in 2016, and rates were two times higher in men than in women. Self-harm was the third leading cause of premature death for men.
Professor Nicholas Steel, the study’s lead author, said: ‘As death rates decrease, people continue to live with long-term, often multiple, conditions. Our findings show a significant shift from mortality to morbidity, yet our health services are still designed to deal with the big killers. Today, conditions such as back and neck pain and anxiety and depression are huge causes of disability in the UK.’
Rates of premature mortality were consistently higher for the 15 most deprived areas of England, compared to the 15 least deprived, and the association with deprivation was particularly strong for lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
There were some surprising results from the study. For instance, Birmingham and some London boroughs (eg. Tower Hamlets and Hackney) performed better than UTLAs with similar levels of deprivation in Liverpool and Manchester. The authors suggest that the relatively better health seen in London may be because of lower levels of risk factors such as smoking and poor diet; better access to health care; higher educational performance; or the selective movement of sicker people outside London, and of healthier people to London for work.