poverty-premature-deathA new study by the Public Health England organisation, the results of which were released in June, has looked to compile a database on premature death statistics for all the local authorities of England. The study looked at the most common causes of premature death including cancer, lung disease, liver disease, heart disease and stroke in an attempt to determine whether or not there was a correlation between location and the probability of suffering a premature death. One of the most interesting facets of the study, however, was the relationship between socioeconomic deprivation and premature death – so, does poverty make one more susceptible to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease? Let’s take a look at the healthcare data and find out…


The study

The Longer Lives study examined the 150 local authorities that make up the whole of England, and as well as in database form the results have been presented as an interactive Longer Lives Atlas. By looking at the map one can visually determine which parts of the country suffer more premature deaths than others, but it’s the table data that provides the real insights into the study…


The results

The Longer Lives Atlas employs a traffic light system to display the premature death statistics, with green representing a minimal risk and red a considerable threat. This colour scheme suggests that major Northern cities are particularly susceptible to premature deaths and this is borne out by the rankings table, with the Manchester, Blackpool, Liverpool and Salford local authorities taking up the bottom four places. At the other end of the table, the relatively rural Southern counties of Wokingham, Richmond-Upon-Thames and Dorset make up the top three.


Correlation between death and deprivation

But what of the comparison between socioeconomic deprivation and premature death? Would you expect there to be a correlation, and if so, is this borne out by the statistics? When ordered by deprivation rather than premature death statistics, 148th placed Liverpool falls to the bottom of the table, while Manchester follows a similar trend moving just four places to 146th. In fact, the ten most deprived local authorities in England are among the bottom 25% for premature death statistics, too, while Wokingham remains top of the pile once the list has been reordered to take deprivation into consideration. It’s safe to say that there are significant correlations between socioeconomic deprivation and premature death.


Notable anomalies

Few studies are 100% conclusive in their findings, however, and the Longer Lives study is no exception. There are several anomalies in the findings. The local authority of Brent is the 30th most deprived in England and yet ranks among the least likely places to suffer a premature death. At the middle of the socioeconomic table, meanwhile, the waters are muddied – Cornwall and Lancashire are socioeconomic neighbours and yet the Southern county is 56 places better off than the local authority of Lancashire County Council when it comes to premature death statistics.


What we can conclude

There is an awful lot to be gleaned from the Longer Lives Study, and it seems as though there is a significant correlation between socioeconomic deprivation and premature death – although, as you would expect, the contrast is most clearly illustrated by the gap between the very rich and the very poor. We ought to take factors such as geographic location into consideration too, as it would be safe to assume that ailing heart or lung disease patients in wealthy Richmond-Upon-Thames (no.2 in the list) would logically head to nearby London boroughs for treatment, perhaps skewing the statistics.


Whatever we take from the Longer Lives study, we must continue to promote the importance of healthcare research for improving the quality of life here in the UK. If you’re in the process of conducting your own study, make the most of our healthcare data capture services for the most accurate, reliable data at all times.