Rich-poor health gap 'biggest ever'
The gap between the health of the rich and the poor is greater now than at any time since records began, research showed.
Government initiatives over the last few decades have done little or nothing to close the gap between the life expectancy of poor people compared with those who are wealthy.
A review of deaths between 1921 and 2007 showed inequality between the rich and poor has been increasing, especially in relation to premature deaths.
Residents in the most deprived areas are much more likely to die younger than those in the richest, and things are no better than during the economic depression of the 1930s, the study found.
"The last time in the long economic record that inequalities were almost as high was in the lead up to the economic crash of 1929 and the economic depression of the 1930s," researchers said.
But they warned that things could be about to become even worse, with the economic downturn of the last couple of years impacting on the health of Britain's poorest, adding that the economic crash of 2008 might precede even greater inequalities in mortality between areas in Britain.
While rates of rising inequalities may have been showing signs of slowing "some underlying factors such as unemployment have been rising rapidly over the course of those two years (2008 and 2009); furthermore, in absolute numbers unemployment has increased fastest in the poorest areas."
By the year 2007, for every 100 people under 65 dying in the best-off areas, 199 were dying in the poorest. The data on under-75s was from 1990 to 2007 and from 1921 for under-65s.
"This is the highest relative inequality recorded since at least 1921," the experts from the Universities of Sheffield and Bristol wrote online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) after analysing death rates in England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics, and for Scotland from the General Register Office for Scotland.
Among under-75s, for every 100 people dying in the best-off areas, 188 were dying in the poorest. The data on under-75s was from 1990 to 2007 and from 1921 for under-65s.