Regional divide in health worsens

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People living in the north of England are more likely to die prematurely than those in the south, research suggests.

A study from the University of Manchester school of community-based medicine and Manchester City Council’s joint health unit looked at the five northernmost and four southernmost English regions and found that those living in the north are a fifth more likely to die under the age of 75.

Resistant to policies

The authors, Professor Iain Buchan from the University of Manchester and John Hacking from Manchester City Council, said in a statement: “These findings point towards a severe, long-term and recently worsening structural health problem in the geography of England, which may not have received the attention it requires from government policy and which has been resistant to specific policies to reduce inequalities in health or regenerate local communities.”

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found that a wide gap between the north and south remained despite the overall death rate falling.

Inequalities in mortality in the north-south divide were severe and persistent over the four decades from 1965 to 2008. Males were affected more than females, and the variation across age groups was substantial.
The increase in this inequality from 2000 to 2008 was notable and occurred despite a public policy emphasis on reducing inequalities in health.

Research needed

The researchers added: “More research is needed into: why policies to reduce such inequalities have failed; how the wider determinants of health may be unbalanced between north and south; and what role selective migration plays.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Everyone should have the same opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter where they live or who they are.”

Antonia Charlesworth

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