Women in the poorest parts of England are dying younger than in most OECD countries | Life expectancy

Women in the poorest parts of England are dying earlier than the average woman in almost every comparable country in the world, according to a damning analysis of life expectancy data that MPs and leading health experts have described as “shocking”, “devastating” and “unacceptable”. ”.

Millions of women living in the most deprived parts of England can expect to live 78.7 years, almost eight years less than those living in the wealthiest parts of England, the Health Foundation has found.

This is worse than the average life expectancy for women in every OECD country except Mexico.

The austere analysis, seen by the Guardian, also reveals that the average life expectancy of all women in England and the UK is lower than the OECD global average. The UK ranks 25th out of 38 OECD countries when it comes to the number of years a woman can expect to live.

Ministers have repeatedly promised to tackle decades of gender inequality and pledged to ‘reset the dial’ on women’s health as part of their leveling package.

But experts say the results show the government has a ‘mountain to climb’, with a ‘fundamental change’ in policy urgently needed to enable women to lead longer and healthier lives.

“The government is committed to tackling the life expectancy freeze and this has been described as a central part of the upgrade program,” said Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation.

“However, he has so far failed to recognize the mountain he must climb to bring life chances in the UK into line with those in other comparable countries.”

According to the new study, women living in the 10% most deprived areas of England have a lower life expectancy than the average for women in countries such as Colombia (79.8 years), Latvia (79.7 years) and Hungary (79.6 years). Globally, only Mexico has a lower overall life expectancy (77.9 years) than that of women in the poorer parts of England.

Graph of average life expectancies

The analysis also exposes the true extent of health inequalities in England. Life expectancy for women in the poorest areas is well below the UK average of 83.1, the English average of 83.2 and the OECD average of 83.4, according to the analysis .

Some of the most deprived areas in England include the local authority areas of Blackpool, Knowsley, Liverpool and Middlesbrough. Less deprived areas include Chiltern, Hampshire, Hart and Rutland.

The gap in life expectancy between women in the richest and poorest areas is 7.7 years. Women in the 10% least deprived areas of England live an average of 86.4 years, more than the overall life expectancy for women in all OECD countries except Japan, which has the highest level of any OECD country at 87.3 years.

“When OECD countries are ranked by life expectancy, the UK comes in at 25th – a somewhat disappointing performance for the world’s fifth-largest economy,” Bibby said.

“However, an even more worrying picture emerges when we look at the gap between rich and poor. The stark reality… is that the poorest can expect to live shorter and less healthy lives than their wealthier counterparts.

England is not a member of the OECD, like the UK, but the Health Foundation has compared life expectancy for 2018 in England – as well as the UK – with other countries in the OECD. It did not examine Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The cost of living crisis is likely to further widen the gap between rich and poor, experts say. The pandemic has already hit the finances of millions of families and rising prices will force a growing number of people to choose between going without essentials for a healthy life – like heating and food – or going into debt.

Clare Bambra, professor of public health at Newcastle University, who was not involved in the analysis, said it highlighted the “vast scale” of health inequalities in England, which were “likely to worsen due to the very real health threats posed by the rising cost of living.”

Hannah Davies, head of health inequalities at the Northern Health Science Alliance, who was also not involved in the research, called the results “shocking”.

She added: “The inequalities between the richest and the poorest in England are morally and economically unacceptable and the devastating impact they have on the poorest women is clearly demonstrated here.

“If the government is to achieve its healthy life expectancy targets, it cannot ignore deprivation in the UK and must invest to help those most affected by the cost of living crisis through significant support and funded.

Bibby said the government must focus on providing secure jobs, adequate incomes, decent housing and quality education to improve women’s health in the poorest areas, otherwise leveling “will remain a little more than a slogan”.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow secretary of state for women and equality, said the “shocking figures” showed women were being let down by the government.

“Everywhere you look, the Conservatives are failing women, whether it’s their failure to address the cost of living crisis, their broken promise to implement a women’s health strategy, or their failure to address the entrenched structural inequalities in health care that put black, Asian and ethnic minority women at risk,” she added.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to improving health across the country and our Health Disparities White Paper, due later this year, will set out action to Reduce the gap in health outcomes between different places, so people’s backgrounds don’t dictate their outlook for healthy living.

“We are also set to release our Women’s Health Strategy later this year to tackle gender inequalities in health and ensure everyone receives the high-quality care they need.

“We are also helping local authorities improve public health by increasing their grant to just over £3.4billion this year. We are investing an additional £36 billion across health and care over the next three years to deliver comprehensive reforms that are sustainable and fit for the future.

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