Health divides worse than in Great Depression, says study

Health inequalities in Britain are worse today than during the Great Depression, research has shown.

A BMJ report showed premature mortality in Britain is now greater than during the depression of the 1930s and is almost as bad as shortly before the 1929 economic crash.

Poor people are now twice as likely to die prematurely than the rich, it said.

They added that inequalities in mortality have not improved despite government efforts, and warned that inequalities may become worse still.  ‘Although life expectancy for all people is increasing, the gap between the best and worst districts is continuing to increase. The economic crash of 2008 might precede even greater inequalities in mortality between areas in Britain,' they said.

Researchers from the universities of Sheffield and Bristol studied mortality data for England, Wales and Scotland using modern population estimates and a new, more accurate way of measuring poverty.

They found geographical inequalities have increased every two years from 1990/1 to 2006/7 without exception, after standardising for age and sex below 75.

By 2006/7, the poorest people were twice as likely to die prematurely as the most affluent. In 1990/1, this was 1.6 times as likely.

Using historical records, researchers now believe that inequalities in Britain in the previous decade than in any other since 1921. This means that inequalities are almost as high now as in the years before the economic crash of 1929.

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