Inequalities matter

Mar 28, 2018 | REPORTS

For the last century, adult life expectancy in the UK has been growing apace although these improvements have not been equally shared between its citizens.

These differences appear to be correlated with rich and poor areas, urban and rural districts, between genders and socio-economic groups. A key finding of this research is that the gap is widening slowly over time resulting in greater inequality and that the amount of widening is strongly correlated with deprivation.

This research, which is related to an earlier report ILC-UK from 2016, is concerned with quantifying the relationship between demographic inequalities and deprivation. Whereas the previous report was concerned with trends over the previous century, this report looks forward in time according to deprivation level. Using the latest forecasting techniques, we show how these trends have benefited some more than others, and how perpetuating inequalities are concentrated in certain age groups or areas.

The report uses the Government-preferred Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) to measure deprivation. The IMD is based on 37 separate indicators including income and are grouped into seven domains, each of which reflects a different aspect of deprivation including education, health and crime.

It finds that although life expectancy is increasing overall and the life expectancies of men and women are converging, any improvements are slower paced in more deprived areas, with the net gap between rich and poor slowly worsening over time.

Men tend to be more adversely impacted by deprivation than women, with the gap in life expectancy at age 30 between the top and bottom one percent of deprived neighbourhoods at 10.9 years for men and 8.4 years for women.

It also confirms that deprivation in England is heavily skewed towards urban areas, with the top five districts of deprivation in Northern England – Middlesbrough, Knowsley on Merseyside, Kingston-upon-Hull, Liverpool and Manchester. By contrast in London, only Tower Hamlets, Haringey and Hackney fall into the top 50 deprived districts.

Lead researcher Professor Les Mayhew, Professor of Statistics, Cass Business School said:

“The causes of ill health are increasingly lifestyle related and rooted in the cultures of different socio-economic groups – think smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, drug abuse and mental illness. Efforts are being made to improve health outcomes in deprived areas but more resources need to be provided for preventative measures and education. Policy tools aimed at changing behaviour using financial incentives including taxes have shown to be successful and should also be considered.”

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive, ILC-UK said:

“The report’s call for greater targeted investment in public health is welcome, but sadly echoes calls made by the International Longevity Centre and other experts that have gone unheeded for far too long.

If the UK is to realise the potential of our rapidly ageing population and all that could mean for our society, we must ensure that the benefits of longevity are shared by all.”


Report authors: Les Mayhew, Gillian Harper and Andrés M. Villegas