Dr Stephen Jivraj is the author of the new study from University College London which sought an answer to the question : 'Are self-reported health inequalities widening by income?' In part of his answer he reveals that we know that rich old men and women in Britain have always been in better health than their poor counterparts, but now it appears the differences have widened since the 1970s.
The study involved him analysing data collected on 200,000 working-age people over the course of the past 100 years, much of which came from the a succession of 'Annual British General Household Surveys' carried out between 1979 and 2011. It showed that :
* for those men born in 1920-22 who reported a 'limiting long-term illness' there was a 9 percentage point difference between the rich and the poor.
* those men born 1968-70 who reported a 'limiting long-term illness' there was a 24 percentage point difference between the rich and the poor.
On the other hand for the men in the wealthier two-thirds of the population there was a drop in limiting long-term illness among those born in the 1960s compared to those born in the 1920s.
Ben Franklin, the Head of 'Research at the Centre for Progressive Policy', said the study added to a growing body of literature showing a widening gap in the health of people with higher and lower socioeconomic status. “We have got the NHS, which is a great thing for the UK, and it helps to level up the UK in terms of ensuring equality of access to world-class healthcare, but that alone is not going to solve persistent and growing health inequalities. Obviously there are things in society that are happening to poorer people that are meaning that they get ill more than wealthier people. So actually if we are going to deal with our health inequalities in society, we need much greater upstream prevention.”
In his report Dr Jivraj said : 'Results presented here show a widening in health inequalities by income in later-born British birth cohorts, 1920-70. They point to a greater future demand in healthcare from people in society who will be least capable of managing their health as they enter ages when ill health becomes more common.’ Unless action is taken, there will ‘likely be further widening of the gap in early deaths between the richest and poorest in society, meaning poor people are more likely to die at a younger age.'
Britain in 2020 :
If it is bad enough that 25% less well-off grandfathers born in 1920-22 reported a chronic condition while, for their less well-off in their grandson's generation, this had risen to 33%, for women the figures are hardly better, with 23% less well-off grandmothers born in 1920-22 having reported a limiting long-term illness compared to 32% of the less well-off in their granddaughter's generation.