Astonishing difference in the risk of avoidable death between the rich and poor

Health Foundation response to ONS data on socioeconomic inequalities in avoidable mortality

1 May 2019

Responding to today's Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on socioeconomic inequalities in avoidable mortality in England and Wales, Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation said:

‘These figures reveal an astonishing difference in the risk of avoidable death between the rich and poor, with men and women living in areas of highest deprivation 4.5 and 3.9 times more likely to die from avoidable conditions respectively, than those living in areas of least deprivation. The relative gap has grown since 2001 reinforcing the link between deprivation and premature risks to health.

‘Recent Health Foundation research found that those living in the most deprived areas are at risk of developing many long term conditions, including cardiovascular disease, ten years earlier in their lives. People in areas of highest deprivation were found, on average, to have two or more long term conditions at the age of 61 compared to 71 in the least deprived.    

‘When looking at the causes of preventable deaths, it is easy to blame the individual and focus on how things like smoking, drinking, lack of exercise or poor diet can contribute to disease. But doing so fails to recognise that the conditions in which people live, work and age can make it harder for people to live healthier lives and in turn drive these huge differences in avoidable deaths.

‘To reduce deaths from preventable diseases, we need cross-government, cross-sector action ranging from tackling poverty to investing sufficiently in local authorities to create the circumstances that enable everyone to live a healthy life. The NHS also has an important role to play to ensure that every person in the UK has equitable access to health care and that primary care, which plays a critical role in preventing and treating ill health, is properly resourced, particularly in areas of high deprivation.’

Background

  • Avoidable mortality refers to deaths from causes that are considered avoidable in the presence of timely and effective healthcare (amenable mortality) or public health interventions (preventable mortality).
  • In 2017, males and females living in the most deprived areas in England were 4.5 and 3.9 times more likely to die from an avoidable cause than those living in the least deprived areas respectively.
  • In 2017, the avoidable mortality rate for males living in the most deprived areas (decile 1) in England was 517.5 deaths per 100,000, compared to 151.9 deaths per 100,000 among males living in the least deprived areas (decile 10).
  • In 2017, the avoidable mortality rate for females living in the most deprived areas (decile 1) in England was 312.0 deaths per 100,000, compared to 100.4 deaths per 100,000 among females living in the least deprived areas (decile 10).

Media contact

Simon Perry
Simon.perry@health.org.uk
020 7257 2093

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