William Eichler 20 February 2020

Charity warns of ‘deep’ health inequalities

A charity has warned of what it calls ‘unacceptable’ health inequalities in how long and how healthy babies born today in different parts of England can expect to live.

A new study by the Centre for Ageing Better, which looks at ONS data on life expectancy, healthy life expectancy, and disability-free life expectancy, found that a boy born in Blackpool is set to live nine years less than a boy born in Westminster.

It also discovered that a girl born in Camden can expect to live almost eight years longer than one born in Blackpool.

Entitled Ageing Better, the charity’s report revealed that of the 10 areas where life expectancy is highest, six are in London and three are in the South East.

Boys born in Richmond-upon-Thames are set to enjoy almost 20 more years of good health than those born in Blackpool. For girls, the biggest gap in healthy life expectancy is between Nottingham and Wokingham, with a difference of 18 years.

The gaps are almost as wide for disability-free life expectancy, which estimates the number of years spent without a long-lasting physical or mental condition that limits a person’s daily activities.

Both boys and girls born in Blackpool can only expect to live to 53 before developing such a condition, compared to 69 for those born in Wandsworth.

The figures also show that the majority of babies born today could be on track for a retirement spent in ill-health and disability.

In only two local areas across England can both boys and girls born today expect to reach the state pension age of 68 without a disability. In only six places can both boys and girls expect to reach that age in good health.

‘Most of us are set to live many years longer than our parents or grandparents – and these extra years are a wonderful gift. But the opportunity of longer lives isn’t being shared equally, especially when it comes to how healthily we spend our later lives,’ said Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better.

‘These figures show that nowhere outside London and the South East can both boys and girls born today expect to reach their state pension age without a disability. We will be letting down today’s children if we fail to improve their prospects for a healthy later life.’

The inequalities revealed by this data are ‘unacceptable and cannot be tolerated’, Ms Dixon continued.

‘The Government must recommit to the goal of closing the gap in disability-free life expectancy between the richest and poorest by 2035, and take the action needed to make good on that commitment,’ she said.

‘This doesn’t just require more funding for health services but investment in improved housing, better quality work and communities, as well as further regulation on tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods.’

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