Study reveals stark health inequalities across England

LONDON, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- People living in the poorest parts of England are diagnosed with serious illness years earlier and die sooner than their peers in more affluent areas of the country, according to a new study released on Monday by a London-based think-tank, the Health Foundation.

In the case of both women and men aged over 60, the study exposed a 16-year gap with regards the appearance of certain health conditions depending on people's financial and economic situation.

The study also found that children and young people in poorer areas are much more likely to be living with conditions such as asthma and epilepsy, while people in their 20s are more often diagnosed with chronic pain, alcohol problems, anxiety and depression. In older age, health inequalities lead to more people suffering from chronic pain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia in the poorer areas.

"This important research will help us to make informed decisions about what health provision we need to make in future years," Toby Watt, an economist who worked on the research alongside the University of Liverpool , told Xinhua.

He described it as one of the most accurate studies to date into the impact of people's financial and economic situation on their health, because it used data on patients' use of primary care and hospital services, as opposed to relying on people's self-assessments.

"It is quite clear that health divergences between poorer and better off people emerge early on in life and ... continue into old age. There is now a lot of evidence in epidemiology showing how this has a direct impact on health," Watt said.

He said that problems could start early in life with smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet, which is largely due to people in poorer areas being more exposed to stress and anxiety.

"It is hopefully not impossible to tackle these inequalities, but it will be a challenge. There is no quick fix. It is going to take time, efforts, and persistence," he said.

Based on their findings, the Health Foundation has called on the next UK prime minister to prioritize action to reduce health inequalities.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss emerged as the final candidates in the Tory leadership race in July. The winner, to be announced on Sept. 5, will automatically become the next PM.

"Both candidates have committed to ... improving life expectancy in the most deprived areas - but this can only be achieved via concerted action across practically every government department," said Jo Bibby, director of healthy lives at the Health Foundation.

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