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Widening North-South gap blamed on poverty related deaths in younger adults

Posted on 31 October 2018

A major study involving the University of York has identified socioeconomic deprivation as a major factor in a sharp rise in deaths among 25 to 44-year-olds living in the North of England.

There is a profoundly concerning gap in mortality between the North and the South, especially in men.

The paper, published in the The Lancet Public Health, reveals a profoundly concerning gap in mortality between the North and the South, especially in men.

Mortality data for adults aged 25-44 were aggregated and compared between England’s five northernmost regions versus its five southernmost government office regions, between 1981 and 2016.

It revealed that, although there was little difference between early deaths in the North and the South in the 1990s, by 2016 a gap had opened up.


Over three years between 2014 and 2016, 3530 more men and 1881 more women, aged between 25 and 44, died in the North than in the South from 2014 to 2016, when population and age are taken into account.

Deaths from accidents, alcohol and drug poisoning increased nationwide, but more quickly in the North, where deprivation tends to be greater and more widespread.

Suicide among men, especially at ages 30-34, and cancer deaths among women were also important factors.

National cardiovascular death rates declined over the study period, though the North - South gap persists.


The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, and involved the Universities of York, Manchester and Keele.

Professor Tim Doran, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said:  “The main reason for the existence of this North-South divide is London. Most northern regions have higher mortality rates than most southern regions for younger adults, but mortality rates in all regions, both North and South, are at least 13% higher than in the capital.

“It is no coincidence that the country’s political, economic and cultural resources are concentrated in London, and the divisions in health we describe are unlikely to be bridged without major structural change to counter England’s centralist tradition.“


Previous research has shown that men between 25-44 living in the most deprived areas are five times more likely to die from alcohol-related diseases. And the risk for women, is four times greater.

And previous research has also found that unskilled men aged 25-39 are 10-20 times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes, compared to professionals.

It is widely known that mortality rates for cancer are higher in more deprived areas and have worse survival rates where smoking and alcohol abuse is more prevalent.

And heroin and crack cocaine addiction and deaths from drug overdoses are also strongly associated with deprivation.

Professor Evan Kontopantelis, from the University of Manchester added: “If these recent trends are not stopped, the national gains made from falling cardiovascular deaths will be overridden and excess mortality in the North may exceed 50%.”

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About this research

Disparities in mortality among 25–44-year-olds in England: a longitudinal, population-based study is published in The Lancet Public Health. 

The study was carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Manchester.

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