Death records show growing North-South divide, study finds

More people in the North of England are dying early than those in the South in a growing health divide across the country, research has found.

A study of death records shows a "tale of two Englands", with people in the North 20% more like to die early - under the age of 75 - than those in the South.

The study, led by the University of Manchester, said there were 14,333 more premature deaths in the North than the South in 2015, and 1.2 million more early deaths in the North from 1965 to 2015.

Deaths among middle-aged adults have been rising since the mid-1990s and there were 49% more among 35 to 44-year-olds in the North than the South in 2015, and 29% more among 25 to 34-year-olds.

Lead researcher Professor Iain Buchan said: "Five decades of death records tell a tale of two Englands, North and South, divided by resources and life expectancy - a profound inequality resistant to the public health interventions of successive governments.

"A new approach is required, one that must address the economic and social factors that underpin early deaths, especially in younger populations, and one that focuses on rebalancing the wider economy to help drive investment in northern towns and cities.

"The devolution of centralised powers may enable civic leaders to seed the economic growth to tackle this divide, but only if they are given the proportionate northern weighting of funds to do so."

The study divided England into the North - comprising the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands - and the South - comprising the East, South West, London and South East.

Co-author Professor Tim Doran, from the University of York, said: "These important findings were made possible by examining public health data - held by the NHS and other agencies - dating back decades.

"The data, technology and skills now exist to better understand population health and develop public policies to improve it proportionately."

The study used data from the Office for National Statistics on the whole English population from 1965 to 2015 and was supported by the Health eResearch Centre at the University of Manchester, which is part of the Farr Institute and funded through a consortium of 10  partners led by the Medical Research Council.

Dr Hakim Yadi, chief executive of the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), a partnership of universities and NHS organisations, said: "Health inequalities between the North and South of the country must be addressed by Government as a priority.

"The NHSA wants to harness the North's huge potential in health innovation and life sciences for the benefit of its 15 million population. Research conducted by IPPR North demonstrates the Government invests much less in health research funding in the North of England than in the South, despite the huge need, as demonstrated by this research, to address inequalities."

The full results will be published in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

A Government spokeswoman said: "The causes of health inequalities are highly complex but we are taking action by addressing the root social causes, promoting healthier lifestyles and improving the consistency of NHS services etc.

"This Government is committed to creating a society where everybody gets the opportunity to make a success of their hard work - regardless of where they are from.

"Latest figures show the North West is the fastest growing region, while the North East has seen the biggest growth in employment over the past year. But there is clearly more to do, and we will continue to drive economic growth across the country as we create an economy that works for everyone."

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