Poor women six times more likely to die from respiratory diseases as those better off

There is still a stark class divide and a strong North-South divide in female mortality, reveals the winter 2009 edition of the ONS’ Health Service Quarterly.

Alice Sachrajda is a researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research

Women in the most disadvantaged socio-economic classes in the UK are up to six times more likely than the most advantaged classes to die from respiratory diseases, according to analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), for the period 2001-03.

The report on “Social inequalities in female mortality by region and selected causes of death, England and Wales, 2001-03” is published in the Winter 2009 Health Statistics Quarterly (pages 7-26).

As the ONS explains:

The results also show that there is still a ‘north-south divide’, with mortality rates for all classes consistently higher in the North West and North East of England and in Wales than in the South West and South East.

“The findings confirm that socio-economic inequalities in mortality in women are as great as those previously reported in men.”

Promoting physical and mental health is essential for development and to ensure poverty-reduction efforts are achieved not only in the UK, but throughout the world. This is recognised by the World Health Organization who state in their Constitution, which says that:

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.”

Government efforts to eradicate child poverty by 2020 are a step in the right direction, but slow progress indicates that the government will fail to meet its interim 2010 target. Last week’s Queen’s speech makes the target legally binding, but whether a Tory government would be bound by such commitments is still unclear.

Public support is necessary to encourage the government to tackle UK poverty. However, building such support can be challenging. The ONS findings have not been widely reported on, but they clearly show that poverty is a catalyst for disease, and that inequality goes hand in hand with poverty.

These statistics are highly significant and help to make the case for even greater efforts towards poverty reduction in the UK.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.