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Death rate for rich and poor widens

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Poor people are now even more likely to die earlier than those who are wealthy despite decades of Government investment to tackle the issue, according to new research.

The gap between life expectancy for those from deprived areas and those in the wealthiest is at its highest level since records began in 1921, the study by experts from Sheffield and Bristol universities shows.

The difference was most marked in relation to premature deaths, data from 1921 to 2007 revealed.

By 2007, for every 100 people under 65 dying in the most affluent areas, 199 were dying in the most deprived neighbourhoods, resulting in “the highest relative inequality recorded since at least 1921”.

Among under-75s, for every 100 people dying in the wealthiest areas, 188 were dying in the poorest.

Despite millions of pounds being channelled into schemes aimed at helping the less well-off improve their health, the inequality gap remains even worse than during the 1930s economic depression when millions struggled to put food on the table.

“Recent Government interventions have aimed to reduce these inequalities but, the evidence suggests, to little effect,” the experts told the online edition of the British Medical Journal.

“The last time in the long economic record that inequalities were almost as high was before the economic crash of 1929 and the economic depression of the 1930s,” the researchers said.

The experts also warned that the recession that hit the UK in 2008 could mean the mortality gap will increase further as hardship hits those least well-off.

While rates of rising inequalities may have been showing signs of slowing “some underlying factors such as unemployment have been rising rapidly over the course of those two years (2008 and 2009); furthermore, in absolute numbers unemployment has increased fastest in the poorest areas.”

“The economic crash of 2008 might precede even greater inequalities in mortality between areas in Britain,” they said.

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