Dying early, under the age of 75 is 20% more likely in northern compared with southern England according to research led by The University of Manchester.

Researchers found that 14,333 more premature deaths in the North in 2015 and that 1.2 million more early deaths in the North from 1965 to 2015.

The study uncovers a North-South divide in deaths among middle aged adults, which has been rising since the mid-90s and is now at alarming levels:

There were 49% more deaths among 35-44 year olds in the North in 2015 and 29% more deaths among 25-34 year olds in the North in 2015.

The team show that a sharp increase in premature deaths among middle aged adults in the North first emerged in the mid-90s, increasingly quickly but consistently until the end of the study period in 2015.

The study used data from the Office of National Statistics on the whole English population from 1965 to 2015.

Published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the news raises questions over the effectiveness of government policies and billions of pounds of public investment designed to tackle the problem.

Lead researcher, Professor Iain Buchan from The University of Manchester said: “Five decades of death records tell a tale of two Englands, North and South, divided by resources and life expectancy – a profound inequality resistant to the public health interventions of successive governments.”

“A new approach is required, one that must address the economic and social factors that underpin early deaths, especially in younger populations, and one that focuses on rebalancing the wider economy to help drive investment in northern towns and cities.

“The devolution of centralised powers may enable civic leaders to seed the economic growth to tackle this divide, but only if they are given the proportionate northern weighting of funds to do so.”

Co-author, Prof Tim Doran from the University of York added: “These important findings were made possible by examining public health data – held by the NHS and other agencies – dating back decades. The data, technology and skills now exist to better understand population health and develop public policies to improve it proportionately.”


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