More young adults are dying before their time in the north of England than the south – and the gap is widening, a study has revealed.
Researchers say that since 1965, about 1.2 million more people have died before the age of 75 in the north of England than in the south, taking into account differences in population. And the team warns that the gap in premature deaths is growing larger – revealing a particularly “alarming growth” among younger adults and those nearing middle-age.
“Between the ages of 25 and 44 there have been rising inequalities,” said Iain Buchan, professor in public health informatics at the University of Manchester and a co-author of the study. “A sticking plaster might be education, improvement of interventions around alcohol misuse and the other common causes associated with young people’s deaths – but that doesn’t tackle the root cause of the social and economic environment,” he said.
While the authors do not explore the reasons behind the deaths, they note that the most common causes of death among young adults include suicide, poisoning, traffic accidents and liver disease.
Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology at University College London who was not involved in the study, said that the research showed the north-south divide has been amazingly persistent. “It is really astonishing how long it has gone on for,” he said, adding that other research has shown that the divide is worse for those of lower socio-economic status. While Marmot said that it was difficult to link changes in mortality to changes in government policy – not least because it is not known what the lag times might be – he said it was highly likely that the disadvantage in the north was social and economic.
Richard Wilkinson, co-founder of the Equality Trust and emeritus professor of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said he was not surprised by the results, pointing out that inequalities rose during the 1980s, and added that austerity was making the north-south divide worse. “The main cuts are to the cities, the labour areas, which need most,” he said.