Women in England’s most deprived areas are suffering their lowest life expectancy for a decade, a new report has revealed.
It is the first time in 100 years that national life expectancy growth has “flatlined” according to the study, titled Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On.
The largest declines were seen in the poorest parts of north-east England while the biggest increases were found in the richest parts of London.
The report, by professor Sir Michael Marmot, comes 10 years after he first published data on health disparities between rich and poor, and between north and south, across England.
“England has lost a decade,” Sir Michael said after his latest review was published on Tuesday.
“If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving.
“If health inequalities continue and in fact increase, that means inequalities in society have been increasing.”
Describing the country as “faltering” in its progress, he added: “From the beginning of the 20th century, England experienced continuous improvements in life expectancy but from 2011 these improvements slowed dramatically, almost grinding to a halt.”
The report’s key findings include:
- The poorer the area, the shorter the life expectancy
- Child poverty after housing costs has risen from 27 per cent in 2010-11 to 30 per cent in 2017-18
- Among single parents who are not in work, 70 per cent of children are in poverty
- People in more deprived areas spend a greater proportion of their lives in ill health than those in affluent areas
- The amount of time people spend suffering poor health has increased across England since 2010
- Women in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas saw their life expectancy fall between 2010-12 and 2016-18
- Cuts in funding in deprived areas and areas outside London were larger and affected those areas more
The report estimated the cost of failing to tackle these issues would be about £82 billion a year in lost taxes, higher welfare payments and increased NHS and social care costs.
It urged the Government to reduce child poverty to 10 per cent, reduce “poor quality, low-paid and insecure” work, make sure the national living wage and benefits give people the minimum needed for a healthy life, and invest more in the most deprived areas.
Prof Marmot said while poverty was an issue, austerity had taken its toll on equity and health.
He added: “Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health and it is likely to continue to do so … if you ask me if that is the reason for the worsening health picture, I’d say it is highly likely that is responsible for the life expectancy flatlining, people’s health deteriorating and the widening of health inequalities.”
Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, which commissioned the report, said: “We urgently need a new national health inequalities strategy, backed by investment in the factors that have the most powerful impact on health, such as early years and youth services, housing, education, social security and good quality work.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “There is still much more to do, and our bold prevention agenda, record £33.9 billion a year investment in the NHS, and world-leading plans to improve children’s health will help ensure every person can lead a long and healthy life.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “There is no greater social injustice than people dying sooner because of poverty and austerity.
“Yet not only is life expectancy stalling for the first time in more than 100 years, shockingly it is actually declining for the poorest 10 per cent of women.”