Health inequalities continue to widen, despite government rhetoric

April 28, 2005

Health inequalities in Britain have continued to increase, despite the government's commitment to tackle the problem, argue researchers in this week's BMJ.

Inequalities in health widened in the 1980s and 1990s, and the current government has repeatedly expressed its intention to reduce these inequalities. In February 2001 it announced national targets to reduce the gap in infant mortality across social groups and to raise life expectancy in the most disadvantaged areas faster than elsewhere by 2010.

But the new 10-year analysis shows that inequalities in life expectancy have continued to widen in the early years of the 21st century, alongside a general trend of widening inequalities in income and wealth.

Life expectancy continues to rise in the most advantaged areas of the country at a greater pace than in the poorest areas. Among men, for example, the difference between the local authority with the lowest life expectancy (Glasgow City) and the one with the highest (East Dorset) has risen to 11 years. Since Victorian times, such inequalities have never been as high, write the authors.

The Slope Index of Inequality for life expectancy, according to decile of poverty, which the authors argue is a more appropriate measure than the official target, increased from 3.71 in 1992-94 to 3.87 in 2001-03.

Income inequalities also rose markedly in the 1980s and have been sustained throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, although encouragingly a fall in income inequalities in the most recent time period can be seen. However, income inequalities are such that the poorest 10% in society now receive 3% of the nation's total income, whereas the richest 10% receive more than a quarter.

Wealth (which can be financial, such as savings, or other assets, such as house ownership) is more unequally distributed than income. Since the 1970s wealth inequality has increased, particularly so since 1995-6. Between 1990 and 2000 the percentage of wealth held by the wealthiest 10% of the population increased from 47% to 54%, and the share of the top 1% rose from 18% in 1990 to 23% in 2000.

Wealth inequalities better reflect the accumulation of lifetime (dis)advantage, and the growing inequalities in wealth seen in recent years do not bode well for future trends in health inequalities, say the authors.

According to the 2002 British Social Attitudes Survey, 82% of people thought the gap between those with high incomes and those with low incomes was too large. Although New Labour has succeeded in raising the living standards of some of the poorest people in Britain, inequalities in wealth have continued to grow and are likely to be transmitted to the next generation, they add.

More substantial redistributive policies are needed that address both poverty and income inequality, they conclude.


Related Inequality Articles from Brightsurf:

Trust and income inequality fueling the spread of COVID-19
Trust in public institutions is linked to fewer COVID-19 deaths, but trust and belonging to groups is associated with more deaths, according to a wide-ranging, McGill-led study of 30-day COVID-19 mortality rates in 84 countries.

Inequality of opportunity drags down everyone's motivation
Unequal compensation reduces people's motivation to work, even among those who stand to benefit from unfair advantages, finds a new UCL-led study published in PLOS One.

Link between education, income inequality has existed for a century
Income is inextricably linked to access to education in America and it has been for a century, according to a new study from researchers at Stanford University and Rice University.

Does genomics perpetuate inequality?
A new Hastings Center special report takes a critical look at the role of genomics in perpetuating racism and inequality.

Columbia professor confronts healthcare inequality in time of COVID-19
Columbia's Kai Ruggeri uses data science to design interventions and recommend policies that help the most vulnerable populations overcome inequalities.

The nexus between economic inequality and social welfare
A new interpretation of the concept of inequity - in the sense of unequal distributions across individuals, time and states of the world -- and a new, general measure of welfare from a study just published in the Journal of Economic Surveys, with the contribution of the CMCC Foundation.

Study finds stronger links between automation and inequality
A new study co-authored by an MIT economist suggests automation has a bigger impact on the labor market and income inequality than previous research would indicate -- and identifies the year 1987 as a key inflection point in this process, the moment when jobs lost to automation stopped being replaced by an equal number of similar workplace opportunities.

Survey: Most Americans want government commitment to reduce inequality
A new poll finds most Americans say the federal government should reduce inequality, amid the COVID-19-produced economic crisis.

Harris Poll: Most Americans want government intervention to reduce inequality
A new poll finds most Americans say the federal government should reduce inequality, amid the Covid-19-produced economic crisis.

Shining a light on international energy inequality
A new study examines energy inequality for income classes across 86 countries, from highly industrialized to developing ones, revealing extreme disparity in energy footprints, both within nations and globally.

Read More: Inequality News and Inequality Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to