A 60-year-old woman in the poorest areas of England generally has the same level of illness as a 16-year-old woman in the wealthiest areas, according to a study into health inequalities.
The Health Foundation found an equally stark, though less wide, gap in men’s health. At age 60, a man living in the bottom 10% of the country typically bears the burden of poor health experienced by his counterpart in the wealthiest 10% at age 70.
The expert group’s analysis of NHS data also shows that women in the poorest parts of England are diagnosed with a long-term illness at the age of 40 on average, while that is not the case for those in the poorest parts of England. the most prosperous places up to 48.
Impoverished women spend 43.6 years, or 52% of their life expectancy, plagued by diagnosed illnesses, while their more affluent peers spend 41 years, or 46% of their life cycle.
Furthermore, women from the most disadvantaged backgrounds die on average at 83.6 years, more than five years earlier than the life expectancy of 88.8 years for affluent women.
Similarly, the poorest men are expected to spend 42.7 years disease-free, while among the wealthiest 10% of the population it is much longer: 49.2 years. And their life expectancy is 78.3 years, compared to 87.1 for the richest.
The findings underscore Britain’s broad and entrenched socioeconomic inequalities in health, which the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted. Ministers promised that addressing them would be a priority as part of the commitment to level up, but a promised white paper on the matter was delayed.
The researchers led by Toby Watt said their findings are probably the most accurate published so far because they were based on data detailing patients’ interactions with hospital and primary care services and, unlike previous studies, were not based on people’s self-reported health.
“In human terms, these stark disparities show that at the age of 40, the average woman living in the poorest areas of England is already being treated for her first long-term illness. This condition translates into discomfort, poorer quality of life and additional visits to the family doctor, medication or hospital, depending on the case. At the other end of the spectrum, the average 40-year-old woman will live another eight years, about 10% of her life, without a decline in quality of life from the disease,” Watt said.
“Throughout the rest of their lives, the impoverished 40-year-old is more likely to have shortness of breath from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, experience alcohol problems, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and have a heart attack or stroke. stroke at younger ages. If she reaches 80, which is less likely, she will still be receiving treatment and living with more serious illness than her wealthier counterparts.”
He and his team found that inequalities in disease burden begin in childhood and persist and change in nature throughout adulthood. However, they are largely explained across the life cycle by just a handful of illnesses: chronic pain, diabetes, severe respiratory problems, anxiety, depression, stroke, heart attack, and drinking-related problems.
In a speech last year, Sajid Javid, then health secretary, identified “disparity disease” as one of the leading causes of preventable death and promised to address its underlying causes.
Watt urged that Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak become the next prime minister to treat health inequalities as a top priority. Doing so would involve a focus on “good quality jobs, housing and education” and not simply more action by the NHS, he added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The pandemic has shone a light on the stark health inequalities that exist across the country – we are committed to improving the health of the nation so that everyone can live longer and healthier lives, regardless of age. of your background
“We have created the Office for Improving Health and Disparities to drive progress in improving health and reducing these unacceptable disparities by focusing on the places and communities where poor health is most prevalent.
“We are aware that women live on average longer than men, but spend most of their lives in poor health, which is why we published the women’s health strategy on July 20, 2022 to work to close the gender health gap.