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Gap between health of rich and poor “at its widest”

23 July 2010

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The government has “done nothing” to close the widening gap between the health of the rich and the poor, research has suggested.

Experts from two universities in England said that government initiatives over the last few decades have “done little or nothing” to reduce the inequality, and the gap between the health of the rich and the poor is the widest since records began in 1921.

A review of deaths between 1921 and 2007 showed that people in the most deprived areas are much more likely to die younger than those in the richest.

The experts, from the Universities of Sheffield and Bristol, said the last time inequalities between the two groups was as high was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Writing online in the British Medical Journal, they said: “Recent government interventions have aimed to reduce these inequalities but, the evidence suggests, to little effect.”

However, they have warned that things could be about to become even worse, and attributed the current recession to the decline in health of the country’s poorest.

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A number of factors, including rising unemployment, combined with the recession, have severely affected the health of the country’s poorest over the last couple of years.

Despite the rates of inequalities showing signs of slowing down, the study suggested that underlying factors, such as unemployment rising rapidly in 2008 and 2009, will only further affect those on low-incomes as unemployment has increased fastest in the past two years in the poorest areas.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

British Medical Journal

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“The poor have never had more money. They are poor for a reason – they are less intelligent. Poor people drink, smoke and eat junk. Making them richer wont stop this” – Jimmy, Birmingham