Health inequalities

What are health inequalities? 

Health inequalities are the unjust and avoidable differences in the length of people’s lives and the quality of health across the population and between specific population groups.

They are determined by the social, economic, political and environmental circumstances which people live in. 

These circumstances are largely beyond an individual’s control. They disadvantage people, limiting their chances to live longer, healthier lives. 

Health inequalities affect the health of both individuals and groups. 


What do health inequalities mean for communities in Great Britain? 

Health inequalities mean that there are stark differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, which have shown no sign of reducing over the past ten years. 

Health inequalities in England mean that people living in neighbourhoods experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage will, on average, die eight years younger, and will spend nearly 19 years more of their shortened life in poor health or with a disability.

Men and women living in the areas of Wales experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage spend 18 fewer years in good health than those in the most affluent areas.  

In Scotland, men and women living in neighbourhoods experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage in Scotland spend, on average, nearly 23 fewer years in good health than those in the most affluent areas.

In England alone, health inequalities cost the NHS around £5.5bn each year, and equate to around £20bn-£32bn in lost taxes and higher welfare.


What are the causes of health inequalities? 

The root cause of health inequalities is an imbalance of power and wealth, which can lead to poverty and to the marginalisation of people and communities.

In turn, this influences the social, economic and environmental conditions in which people live, such as the availability of good work, education and good quality housing.

This environment then shapes individual experiences across the population and leads to the inequalities in health outcomes.


What are the conditions needed for good health? 

For good health, we need: 

  • Engaged communities
  • Better homes 
  • Good education 
  • Community safety 
  • Good spatial planning 
  • Food and nutrition 
  • Local wealth 


The Trust funds projects across Great Britain to work towards supporting these conditions to emerge, based on the things that people identify as important to them. 


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