Quantifying health inequalities in England: new report from the Health Foundation

People living in the most deprived parts of England are diagnosed with serious illness earlier and die sooner than their peers in more affluent areas, according to a study by the Health Foundation.

Previous studies into the extent of health inequalities in England have largely relied on people’s self-reported health. This new analysis uses linked hospital and primary care data to examine socioeconomic, regional and ethnic variations in the prevalence of diagnosed long-term illnesses. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. The analysis also uses the Cambridge Multimorbidity Score to assess the relative impact of different patterns of illness on people and their health care needs.

The study finds:

  • For most of their lives, people in the poorest areas of England, on average, have more diagnosed illness over 10 years earlier than those in the richest areas.
  • While inequality in life expectancy is greater for men than for women, women face greater disparity in the amount of time spent with diagnosed illness. On average, a 60-year-old woman in the poorest areas of England will have a level of diagnosed long-term illness equivalent to that of a 76-year-old woman in the wealthiest areas.
  • A woman living in the poorest areas has a life expectancy five years shorter than those in the wealthiest areas. She will spend more than half (44 years) of her shorter life in ill health compared to 46% (41 years) for a woman in the wealthiest areas.
  • A 60-year-old man in the poorest areas of England will on average have a level of diagnosed illness equivalent to that of a 70-year-old man in the wealthiest areas. He will be expected to live up to the age of 78, dying nine years earlier than someone in the wealthiest areas (87).
  • The socioeconomic inequality in life expectancy for men is such that, despite spending a greater share of their lives with diagnosed illness (46% compared with 44%), men in the most deprived areas spend less time living with diagnosed illness (36 years compared with 38 years in the least deprived areas).

Click here to find out more and read the report on the website of the Health Foundation.