Inequalities in mortality in Britain today greater than those during 1930s economic depression

July 22, 2010

The level of inequalities in premature mortality between different areas of Britain has almost surpassed those seen shortly before the economic crash of 1929 and the economic depression of the 1930s, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal today.

Inequalities continued to rise steadily during the first decade of the twenty first century, UK researchers have found, and could become worse.

Inequalities in mortality in Britain have persisted over many years and recent government efforts to reduce them have not had any great impact as yet. The gap in health inequalities has widened over the past 10 years, reflecting widening in wealth and income.

Researchers from the universities of Sheffield and Bristol have built on previous research looking at socioeconomic differences in mortality, using updated population estimates and a new more accurate way of measuring poverty.

They analysed mortality data for England and Wales, obtained from the Office for , and for Scotland, obtained from the General Register Office for Scotland.

The statistics for the entire population aged under 75 from 1990 to 2007 were used and the whole population aged under 65 from 1921-39, 1950-53, 1959-63, 1969-73 and 1981-2007.

The study found that geographical inequalities in age-sex standardised rates of mortality below age 75 have increased every two years from 1990-1 to 2006-7 without exception.

During this period, the poorest people were 1.6 times more likely to die prematurely than the most affluent people in 1990-1, and this difference increased so that by 2006-7, the worst off people were twice as likely to die prematurely than the most affluent people.

There was a small reduction in inequalities around 2001, but this trend quickly reversed and inequalities up to the age of 75 have now reached the highest levels reported since at least 1990.

A slight improvement in inequalities in mortality ratios was also noted in 2001 for people aged under 65, but this pattern has also reversed.

Historical records allow crudely age-sex standardised rates below age 65 to be compared and these reveal that geographical inequalities in mortality are higher in the most recent decade than in any similar time period for which records are available since at least 1921.

This means that the last time that inequalities were almost as high as they are now was in the lead up to the economic crash of 1929 and the economic depression of the 1930s.

The researchers conclude: "Although life expectancy for all people is increasing, the gap between the best and worst districts is continuing to increase. The economic crash of 2008 might precede even greater inequalities in mortality between areas in Britain."

Explore further: Study says death gap increasing in US

Related Stories

Study says death gap increasing in US

May 14, 2008

A new study finds a gap in overall death rates between Americans with less than high school education and college graduates increased rapidly from 1993 to 2001. The study, which appears in the May 14 issue of PLoS ONE, says ...

Wealth is good for your health, finds study

May 7, 2009

( -- Wealth and social class has a greater impact on the health and well-being of the elderly than previously realised, according to new research.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.