Health Inequalities Persist Despite Rising Prosperity in U.K.

Smaller improvements in life expectancy in areas that were deprived at start of 1998-2007 decade

THURSDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- In the decade from 1998 to 2007, life expectancy in England increased with increasing prosperity; however, more deprived areas had smaller improvements in life expectancy, resulting in widening health disparities, according to a study published online Dec. 4 in BMJ.

Ben Barr, Ph.D., of the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and colleagues used data obtained from the National Health Service Information Centre and Office for National Statistics for residents of 324 local authorities in England to determine whether life expectancy increased with increased prosperity during 1998 to 2007 and the implications of these findings on health inequalities.

Over the decade, the researchers found that each 1 percent absolute decrease in unemployment correlated with a 2.2-month increase in men's life expectancy and a 1.7-month increase in women's life expectancy. Life expectancies increased by 1.4 and 1.1 months for men and women, respectively, with each £1,000 increase in average household income. Significantly smaller improvements were observed in local authorities that were more deprived at the start of the decade, even after accounting for changes over time in unemployment and household income, resulting in a widening of health inequalities.

"The uneven rise in prosperity between 1998 and 2007 accounted for differential increases in life expectancy in English local authorities; however, the more deprived an authority was in 1998, the lower the rate at which life expectancy improved, independent of changes in prosperity," the authors write.

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