Report reveals health inequalities between rich and poor towns

People living in England’s poorest towns have on average 12 fewer years of good health than those in richer areas, according to a new study.

The study by researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Bennett Institute found that the number of hospital admissions for self-harm in the most deprived towns is – on average – almost double that of the most affluent, with alcohol-related admissions over 75% higher than in the least deprived towns.

Lung cancer is twice as prevalent in the most deprived towns, and child obesity in the poorest towns stands at an average of 23% by the end of primary school, compared to around 12% in the wealthiest.

Towns with the longest life expectancy include Frimley in Surrey and Filton, near Bristol. Populations with the shortest lives, on average, were found in Thurnscoe, near Barnsley, and Oldham.

Two seaside towns at either end of the country, Blackpool in the Northwest and Jaywick in East Anglia, had the highest levels of self-harm. Another coastal town, Newbiggin-by-the-sea, near the former collieries north of Newcastle, had the highest child obesity rates. Eccles and Salford on the outskirts of Manchester are the towns with most alcohol-related hospital admissions.

Hertforshire contains a number of England’s healthiest and wealthiest towns, such as Radlett and Harpenden, while many of the country’s unhealthiest towns – scattered across the north – are also those with the largest populations.

‘The previous pattern of rising life expectancy has stalled or gone into reverse in many English towns,’ said Prof Mike Kenny, report co-author and Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

‘Declining fortunes and debates over Brexit have highlighted the chasm that divides many town inhabitants from those in cities.

‘However, on some key health measures, inequalities between towns are much greater than the average difference between towns and cities. People in England’s most deprived towns lose over a decade of good health compared to the populations of wealthy towns,’ added Professor Kenny.

‘There is an overriding need for policies to address the large and widening gaps in the health and opportunities of many towns. These policies should be integral to post-pandemic economic recovery agendas.’

Photo Credit – Jamie Hailstone

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