Life expectancy for northern babies ‘a year less than’ others in England

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Babies born in the North of England are expected to live at least a year less than the English average, new data has found.

Public health experts have warned of a widening gap between the North and the rest of England after also looking at infant mortality rates, disabilities, unpaid care and how people assess their own health.

These health disadvantages also impact on productivity due to increased levels of economic inactivity because of ill health.

In the North East, life expectancy is around three years less than the best performing regions.

Across the North, infant mortality was on average four in 1,000 live births, compared to three in 1,000 for London and the South East, equating to 144 more infant deaths in the North East in 2021.

The North has higher rates of bad or very bad health, with 6.9% of people in the North East, 6.4% in North West, and 5.9% in Yorkshire and the Humber reporting bad or very bad health – compared to the English average of 5.3%.

The five local authorities with the highest levels of people saying a disability limits their day-to-day activities a lot are in the North: Knowsley (North West; 13%), Liverpool (North West; 12.7%), Blackpool (North West; 12%), Manchester (North West; 11.4%) and Hartlepool (North East; 11.3%).

More people in the North say they provide unpaid care – in the North East 10.1%, the North West 9.7% and Yorkshire and the Humber is 9.3% – compared to the English average of 8.9%

The HEN institute academics will produce annual updates on health in the North and try to influence policy to reduce inequalities across the regions.

Dr Luke Munford, a health economist from Manchester University, co-authored the report and said: “The northern regions have faced worse health outcomes for many years and with the added challenges posed in the wake of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, things look set to continue on a downward spiral.

“However, a joined-up approach to tackle these inequalities at local and national level would help to rebalance regional health inequity.”

“They are getting worse and they will continue to do so without urgent action to ensure people living in the North have the same life chances as those in the rest of England.”

Professor David Taylor-Robinson, HEN academic director, professor of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool and co-author, said: “It is not acceptable that children born in the North face the prospect of shorter lives.

“Everyone deserves to have the same chances but we know that many families in the North face a daily struggle to meet basic needs.

“While our report is a sobering read it also provides clear recommendations on a range of short and long-term measures that could help improve health outcomes for people across the North.”

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