Thursday, August 23, 2012

Health - a class divide?

It's long been known that different socio-economic groups fare differently when it comes to health - and as one nation may have a different infant mortality rate from the next, so one neighbourhood in a city may have a different average life expectancy from its neighbours.

This reality was highlighted memorably in the recent Tube Map life expectancy - a schematic that shows the scattering of different longevity averages for areas of London. In some cases the difference of a few miles can mean as much as over a decade's difference - and this is just one city. 

Recent research by the King's Fund shows that disparities in life expectancy are unlikely to be eradicated overnight, or indeed at any point in the near future. Two of the key points in their recent paper on the subject highlight this -

First, the overall number of people in the UK who 'engage in three or four unhealthy behaviours' declined in the five years between 2003- 8 by a not inconsiderable eight percent. In terms of a nation getting healthier, that's actually a very impressive figure as long as the momentum continues. 

However, the decrease in unhealthy behaviours, says the King's Fund, were "seen mainly among those in higher socio-economic and educational groups". Further, people with no qualifications "were more than five times as likely to enagage" in all four of behaviours, whereas five years before they were only three times more likely to.

The King's Fund says that this health polarisation could lead to inequality and 'avoidable pressure' on the health service.


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