Premature deaths show action needed on social determinants of health

More than 1 million people in England died prematurely in the decade following 2011 due to a combination of poverty, austerity policies and Covid, according to a study by the Institute of Health Equity (IHE) at University College London led by Sir Michael Marmot.

The report – Health Inequalities, Lives Cut Short – found that between 2011 and 2019, 1,062,334 people died earlier than they would have done if they had lived in areas where the richest 10% of the population live. A further 151,615 premature deaths were recorded in 2020, although this number was higher than expected because of the Covid pandemic.

In a change from the usual approach of analysing figures from the most deprived areas of England, the analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics looked at the people who live outside of the wealthiest 10% of areas in England, in other words the vast majority (90%) of the country.

The effect on public health of living in deprived areas is well known, but the number of early deaths revealed in this report on the vast majority of England  is “shocking” according to Marmot, who noted that:

“Our country has become poor and unhealthy, where a few rich, healthy people live. People care about their health, but it is deteriorating, with their lives shortening, through no fault of their own. Political leaders can choose to prioritise everyone’s health, or not. Currently they are not.”

Full story in The Lowdown, 13 January 2024