Revealed: How large swathes of the North have lower life expectancy than the least healthy area in the South

Universities and public health experts in the North have teamed up to tackle health inequalities
Universities and public health experts in the North have teamed up to tackle health inequalities

Health experts and academics have teamed up to call for action over the North's ill health after new figures exposed the widening gap in life expectancy between the region and southern England.


Analysis to be presented at a major public health festival today shows that in two-thirds of areas in the North, female life expectancy is lower than the area with the lowest female life expectancy in the South. The figure is 46 per cent of areas for male life expectancy.

The figures also show that 88 per cent of northern local authority areas have a lower female life expectancy than the England average and 86 per cent have a lower male life expectancy.

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The scale of the problem has prompted leading public health experts at northern universities to team up with organisations including Public Health England to form the Northern Universities’ Public Health Alliance (NUPHA).

Member of NUPHA, Professor Tim Doran from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: "There are major structural disparities in power and resources between northern and southern England, and as a result people living in the North live shorter and less healthy lives.

“This health gap has persisted for centuries, but in recent years has started to widen. Even amongst young and middle-aged adults, who should expect to be in good health, there are 1,800 excess deaths in the North every year, largely attributable to alcohol and drug misuse.

“These widening divisions suggest increasing psychological distress and risk-taking in the North, and this demands effective policy responses proportionate to the scale of the problem, including substantial social and economic changes and a rebalancing of the economy between the North and South of England."

According to the figures being unveiled at the International Festival of Public Health in Manchester, a third of the
productivity gap between the North and the rest of the UK is due to ill health, costing the UK economy
£13.2bn each year.

It reveals that the southern regions receive more funding for research and development from the government and research councils, equating to £21.95 per head in the North and £51.02 per head in the South.

It comes after The Yorkshire Post and rival publishers from across the North teamed up to challenge Britain’s main political parties to commit to a package of policy measures to turbo-charge the North’s economy as part of the Power Up The North campaign.

Professor Paul Johnstone, Regional Director for Public Health England (North) and a visiting professor at Leeds Beckett University, said: “For so long now the North lags behind the rest of the country economically and in health.

"[The 2014 report] Due North set out the evidence to underpin action on health inequalities and we
have been using this in the last five years since its publication.

"New approaches to addressing inequalities are emerging all the time and the NUPHA will be key to supporting practitioners and decision makers with the best evidence.”