England’s northerners are dying younger at far higher rates than their southern counterparts. This is a result of an unequal society with a withered state unable to level life’s playing field
Has England’s north-south divide turned into a deadly one? If the latest research on premature deaths is to be believed, it certainly seems so. Researchers from Manchester University looked at the death rates of two groups of 25 million people either side of a line from the Wash to the Severn estuary. Above the line “northerners” between the ages of 25 to 44 died in much greater numbers than “southerners” below it. The figures are staggering: in the age group 25-34 years nearly a third more northerners died. For those aged between 35 and 44 the mortality rate was 50% higher among northerners. This gap is a modern phenomenon: in 1995 regional mortality converged to within a whisker.
The reasons for the differing rates of death are not, perhaps, as surprising as the causes. Young people die from “diseases of despair” – those associated with drug overdoses, suicides and alcoholism. These blight regions unequally: the north-east had the highest drugs-related mortality rate, 77 per 1 million people. In London the comparable figure is just 32. While the north represents 30% of the population of England, it includes 50% of the poorest neighbourhoods – and a rapid increase in suicides from 2008, concentrated in areas of high unemployment, contributes to higher premature death rates.
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