Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 09:08 UK

UK poorest 'living shorter lives'

Eastbourne, Sussex
Eastbourne has the highest average life expectancy, research suggests

Britons who live in affluent areas live up to 14 years longer than those in poorer ones, research has suggested.

The average age of death varied between 66 in Easterhouse, Glasgow, and 80 in Eastbourne, Sussex, the Universities of Bristol and Sheffield found.

The study, called the Grim Reaper's Road Map, analysed nearly 15 million deaths between 1981 and 2004 and mapped them according to age, place and cause.

Authors said poverty and social mobility explained the variations.

Researchers divided the UK into 1,282 neighbourhoods, each about the size of half a parliamentary constituency.

This is not just about poverty. Poverty is part of it, but it's also about people moving around the country to improve their health and wealth
Danny Dorling
Sheffield University

Within these areas they calculated an individual's chance of dying from a particular cause in a particular place, compared to the national average for that cause of death.

Researchers found the overall average age of death in the UK was 74.4 years - or 71.2 for men and 77.4 for women.

But in the most affluent areas, such as west Eastbourne, this rose to 80.6 years and dropped to 66.4 in more deprived areas, such as Glasgow's Easterhouse.

Heart disease

Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Sheffield University and one of the report's authors, said key factors in the regional variations were levels of wealth and people's mobility.

"This is not just about poverty. Poverty is part of it, but it's also about people moving around the country to improve their health and wealth," he said.

"Part of the reason east Glasgow has such poor health is that it has one of the highest rates of out-migration.

"People who are able to do so, move out of the area to more affluent areas."

The study, which also mapped deaths according to cause, found heart disease was behind more than a quarter of all deaths during the 25-year period analysed.

Map showing death from heart disease

A clear north-south divide was discovered, with almost all neighbourhoods with the highest rates of the disease found in the north of England and west of Scotland, particularly around Glasgow.

There were also differences between the north and the south with regard to lung cancer, with clusters of cases found in Liverpool, Manchester, Tyneside and central London.

Age differences

The study, dubbed the atlas of death, suggested these differences in life expectancy between richer and poorer areas were getting worse.

The mortality rate for those in the most deprived areas in 1981 was 20% higher than the national average, but this rose to 50% by 2004, Mr Dorling said.

The number of people dying from violence, alcohol and suicide had also increased significantly between 1981 and 2004, he added.

The report also shed light on the most common causes of death for different age groups.

Transport-related accidents - such as on the roads - were found to be the biggest cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24.

Suicide and drugs became the biggest killers in urban Britain for those in their 20s, while road accidents were the leading cause of death in the countryside at that age, researchers said.

People in their 30s were most likely to die from diseases, the study found.

However, the maps also showed some historical blips. In two neighbourhoods in Scotland, the greatest cause of death among five to nine year olds was found to be assault with a firearm. This was put down to the 1996 Dunblane massacre.

In addition, a cluster of lung cancer deaths was found in Llandudno, north Wales, which authors believed was likely to be because people with the disease were going there to recover.

Scots life expectancy 'improving'
25 Sep 08 |  Scotland
Glaswegians 'live shorter lives'
22 Aug 03 |  Scotland

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