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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Life expectancy gap 'widening'
Boarded up houses
The poorest areas have the lowest life expectancy
Health inequalities across the UK are at their widest since Victorian times, a study says.

The joint University of Bristol and University of Sheffield team found a 10-year difference in life expectancy between the best and worst areas.

Despite attempts to reverse the trend, they said the gap was still rising but this could change in coming years.

Glasgow had the worst life expectancy, 72.9 years, compared to Kensington and Chelsea in London on 82.4.

A Labour spokeswoman said the party disagreed with the conclusions.

The researchers looked at the life expectancy for 10 different poverty groups from 1992 to 2003 although the report admitted the gap had been widening since the 1980s.

They found over that period the gap had widened by 0.15 of a year, with the poorest living 76.2 years on average while the wealthiest lived until 80.3 years old.

'Income inequalities'

Glasgow City has the worst life expectancy, 72.9 years, compared to Kensington and Chelsea in London on 82.4.

Report co-author Professor Danny Dorling said he could not be certain what had caused the increase, but it was most likely to be poverty.

He said: "As with all these things it is hard to explain why it is happening, but we know that income inequalities have increased and it seems this has been mirrored by health inequalities.

"If that is true, we might see a narrowing of the gap as the latest income figures show that has narrowed recently."

72.9 - Glasgow City
74.2 - Inverclyde
74.3 - West Dunbartonshire
74.8 - North Lanarkshire
74.8 - Manchester

The paper, published in the British Medical Journal, said the income and wealth inequalities had been widening since the 1980s - the poorest 10% in society now received 3% of the nation's total income, whereas the richest tenth obtained more than a quarter.

Karen Jochelson, of the King's Fund, a health think-tank, agreed the gap was widening.

"The government came in with a courageous platform but they did not go an extra step and tackle income equality, that was the problem."

'Two failures'

In 2001 the government said it would reduce the gap in infant mortality and life expectancy by 2010.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "At the heart of the inequality are two failures.

"Firstly, the government has failed to prioritise public health - services are fragmented and Labour have delivered weak, inconsistent messages.

82.4 - Kensington and Chelsea
81.8 - East Dorset
81.7 - Hart
81.4 - Guildford
81.4 - Rutland

"Secondly, GPs have not been given enough control to deliver changes."

And Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow added: "Prevention is as important as cure. Labour has dithered and delayed for eight years while sexual infections have rocketed, binge drinking is on the rise and smoking levels have remained about the same for over a decade."

But a Labour spokeswoman said: "If you look at areas we have focused on such as heart disease and cancer, the gap has really narrowed.

"It is just plain wrong to say it is the worst since Victorian times, there was not even a health service then."

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