THE Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, has said that he is disturbed but not surprised by new research which suggests that people are more likely to die young if they live in the north rather than the south of England.
A study by academics from the University of Manchester, North-South disparities in English mortality 1965–2015: longitudinal population study, reports that, from 1965 to 2015, premature death occurred more often in the north than it did in the south. Even as the rates of “excess mortality” fell over the period studied, the gap between the two regions did not close.
In total, 1.2 million more people have died before the age of 75 in the north than the south since 1965, even when differences in population levels are taken into account.
Bishop Bayes said: “I am disturbed by these statistics but frankly not surprised by them. There is a systemic inequality in our nation and the north is the victim of it, in life expectancy as in so much else.
“I am a person of faith and not a politician, economist, or statistician. And I do not see these numbers as counters in a rhetorical game. They refer to our fellow human beings. They represent a sister, brother, partner, friend. They point to the grieving relative or the bereaved child. Untimely loss is more than a political argument. It is deeply personal and that is what should call us to respond more urgently.”
The study found that in the north, 35 people in every 10,000 died before the age of 75 in 2010, a fall from 72 in every 10,000 50 years earlier. In the south, the same rate fell from 64 in 1965 to 28 in 2010. Since 2010, the rates of premature deaths in both north and south have stopped falling.
Indeed, there has even been a notable rise in premature death among the 25-44 age group in the north since the mid-1990s. By 1995, the gap between premature deaths for this age group had almost been eradicated, but has since rocketed back upwards.
In 2015, 30 per cent more 25 to 34-year-olds in the north were dying young than people in the same age bracket in the south, and there were 50 per cent more early deaths for the 35 to 44 cohort.
The study concludes: “This profound and worsening structural inequality requires more equitable economic, social and health policies, including potential reactions to the England-wide loss of improvement in premature mortality.”
Bishop Bayes said that the problem went beyond individual governments and policies, and pointed to a systemic bias to the south, which needed to be addressed, possibly by increases in taxation or a “systematic redistribution of resource”.
The Bishop of Berwick, the Rt Revd Mark Tanner, said that the study had highlighted “an important issue for us as a nation. We in the north love this part of the country, and there are many signs of hope here. However, we continue to need to work together to end inequality and release the full God-given potential of everyone, young and old, in our country today.”