Life expectancy and poverty

18 July 2016
What was claimed

People born poor will die nine years earlier than others.

Our verdict

This is partially correct. Boys born in some of the poorest areas in the UK are expected to live nine years fewer than those in the very richest areas. For girls the figure is seven years.

"If you're born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others."

Theresa May, 13 July 2016

Nine years is the age gap between the life expectancy of men in some of the poorest and wealthiest areas in the UK according to official statistics. The gap is seven years for women. Other studies looking specifically at the impact of deprivation on life expectancy have found similar figures.

Life expectancy does vary across the UK

Life expectancy for newborn boys in England and Wales was highest in Kensington and Chelsea, at around 83 years. It was lowest in Blackpool at almost 75 years.

That’s a difference of almost nine years, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering 2012 to 2014.

For girls born during the same time, life expectancy is highest in Chiltern in Buckinghamshire, at around 87 years and lowest in Middlesbrough, at just under 80 years. The difference in life expectancies here is almost seven years.

In 2014 Kensington and Chelsea, and Buckinghamshire were among the ten areas in the UK with most disposable household income per head. Blackpool is among the twenty areas of the UK with least disposable income, and the South Teesside area containing Middlesbrough is one of the 40 areas with least disposable income.

Average life expectancy at birth across England and Wales over this period was 79 for men and 83 for women.

Life expectancy is lowest in the North and highest in the South

The majority of the top 50 local areas in England and Wales which had the lowest life expectancy for both girls and boys were found in the North East and North West of England and in Wales.

The top 50 local areas with the highest life expectancy were almost all in the East Midlands, South East, East of England, South West or London.

The link between deprivation and life expectancy

A 2015 study by the King’s Fund think tank looked at life expectancy in England from 1999 to 2003 and 2006 to 2010. It found that the majority of areas with persistently low life expectancy during this time also had a high proportion of people earning low or no wages. It also found that the reverse was largely true.

Other studies have found similar links. The Marmot Review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health in 2008 said that average life expectancy was seven years lower in the poorest communities compared to the wealthiest. When this review looked at disability-free life expectancy this gap widened to 17 years.

These studies looked specifically at the link between life expectancy and income deprivation, whereas the ONS figures which looked at disposable income.

The King’s Fund found that a number of other factors affected life expectancy, including deprivation in old age, housing deprivation, binge drinking, fruit and vegetable consumption and gender.

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