Men living in the most deprived areas of England die almost a decade earlier on average than those in the wealthiest areas, according to official statistics.
The 9.7-year gap, based on data from 2018 to 2020, represents an increase of about 110 days from the results from 2015 to 2017.
Covid-19, which has disproportionately affected poorer communities, is believed to be a major factor in the increase.
For women, the average difference in life expectancy was 7.9 years between those in the most deprived areas and those in the least deprived areas. This is an increase of approximately six months.
The results are not completely comparable, however, as data from 2015 to 2017 also includes figures for Wales.
Hospital leaders called for “urgent action” against these “entrenched and unjustifiable” health inequalities.
Miriam Deakin, Director of Policy and Strategy at National Health Service Providers, said: “The current cost of living crisis and growing health inequity gap underscore the importance of urgent action. and concerted action on the broader determinants of health, alongside work to ensure that health services are fair and equitable.”
Meaningful change, she added, can only be achieved through collaboration that addresses “all the factors that contribute to people’s health, including poverty.”
The deputy director of healthy lives at the British NGO Health Foundation, David Finch, described the difference in life expectancy as “staggering”.
The data “shows the uneven impact of the pandemic with larger falls in life expectancy in poorer parts of England compared to wealthier ones”, he said.
Data from the Office of National Statistics also showed that men and women in the most deprived parts of England spent many more years in poor health than those in the wealthier parts of the country.
“Girls born in the poorest parts of England live 19 years less in good health than those born in the wealthiest parts,” Finch added.
Reducing these “glaring” inequalities, he said, “requires a fundamental shift towards a whole-of-government approach that actively improves the conditions needed to create good health, such as adequate incomes to meet the rising cost of life, secure jobs and decent housing”. .”
Professor Michael Marmot, inequality expert and director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, wrote in a recent Guardian article that the pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities.
“In the decade before the pandemic, improvements in health in the UK slowed dramatically, inequalities grew and the health of the poorest people deteriorated. All of this was amplified by the pandemic,” he wrote.
“If we don’t address people’s inability to meet their basic needs, with adequate income and services, we risk inflicting a humanitarian calamity on one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”