People in England’s poorest towns ‘lose over a decade of good health’, research finds

  Abingdon street in central Blackpool, the English town with the highest rate of hospital admissions for self-harm.  Credit: Clive Varley

Cambridge researchers find major health inequalities – as well as a geographic divide – between the most and least deprived English towns. They say that life expectancy in cities is now overtaking towns for the first time.

Populations in England’s poorest towns have on average 12 fewer years of good health than those in the country’s richest towns, according to new research from the University of Cambridge’s Bennett Institute.

The study shows that the number of hospital admissions for self-harm in the most deprived towns is – on average – almost double that of the most affluent, with alcohol-related admissions over 75% higher than in the least deprived towns.  

Lung cancer is twice as prevalent in the most deprived towns, and child obesity in the poorest towns stands at an average of 23% by the end of primary school, compared to around 12% in the wealthiest. 

In fact, researchers say the overall life expectancy of town-based populations is “moving in a worse direction” compared to cities – with female life expectancy now higher in English cities than towns for the first time this century.

“The previous pattern of rising life expectancy has stalled or gone into reverse in many English towns,” said Prof Mike Kenny, report coauthor and Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. “Declining fortunes and debates over Brexit have highlighted the chasm that divides many town inhabitants from those in cities.

“However, on some key health measures, inequalities between towns are much greater than the average difference between towns and cities. People in England’s most deprived towns lose over a decade of good health compared to the populations of wealthy towns.”

“There is an overriding need for policies to address the large and widening gaps in the health and opportunities of many towns. These policies should be integral to post-pandemic economic recovery agendas,” Kenny said.

The team found a “strong geographical context”: most of the healthiest towns are in the South East, while most of the unhealthiest towns are situated in former industrial areas of Northern England.

Towns with the longest life expectancy include Frimley in Surrey and Filton, near Bristol. Populations with the shortest lives, on average, were found in Thurnscoe, near Barnsley, and Oldham.

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Image:  Abingdon street in central Blackpool, the English town with the highest rate of hospital admissions for self-harm.

Credit: Clive Varley


Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


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