Wealthier people in England enjoy 19 more years of good health than those born in the most deprived areas of the country, according to a revealing report from Public Health England.
The report shows that whilst we are all living longer – an average life expectancy of 79.6 years for men and 83.2 for women – stubborn inequalities persist between rich and deprived regions in England, with those born into rich families far less likely to suffer the same life-limiting health problems as poorer households.
The report aims to aid policy makers in prioritising efforts to prevent ill health not just deal with the consequences, but there is little or no mention of the impact of austerity on public health.
Some of the key findings include:
- the number of people aged 85 years has more than tripled since the 1970s and will include more than 2 million people by 2031
- the death rate for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – already the leading cause of death in women – may overtake heart disease in men as early as 2020 and is likely to become the leading cause of death in men too
- the number of people with diabetes is expected to increase by a million – from just under 4 million people in 2017 to almost 5 million in 2035
- in the last 7 years, smoking prevalence has dropped by a quarter to 15% and as little as 10% of the population could still be smoking by 2023
According to the report’s findings, life expectancy among women in England is ranked 18th lowest out of 28 EU member states, while male life expectancy fairs a little better as is ranked 10th.
Lower back pain, neck pain and skin disease (dermatitis, acne and psoriasis) are two of the leading causes of morbidity among English men and women, with hearing and sight loss also ranking highly for both sexes.
While morbidity remains closely (and obviously) linked with old age, mental health problems and substance abuse are counted among the main causes of morbidity for those aged 15 to 29 years.
Commenting on the report, Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England said: “Inequalities in health undermine not only the health of the people but also our economy.
“As we work to develop the NHS long term plan, we must set the ambition high. If done right, with prevention as its centrepiece, the payoff of a healthier society and more sustainable NHS will be huge.”
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “Now in its 70th year, demands on the NHS have changed significantly. More of us are living longer with painful or disabling conditions, including musculoskeletal problems, skin conditions and sensory loss.
“While these illnesses often attract less attention than causes of early death such as heart disease and cancer, they have a profound effect on the day to day lives of many people and together they place significant pressure on the NHS.
“The challenge now is for the NHS to respond to this changing landscape and to focus on preventing as well as treating the conditions which are causing the greatest disease burden across our nation.”