Life Expectancy Inequalities Between the Rich and Poor in London See a Significant Rise

A study conducted by Imperial College London has mapped life expectancy in several Lower-Layer Super Output Areas in London against house prices.

Contents of the study

The study has revealed a significant increase in the gap of life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest areas of London, as house prices continue to rise in the city. The researchers tracked changes in life expectancy across thousands of areas in London between 2002 and 2019, and analysed this data alongside information on house prices from the Land Registry.

The study examined data from 4,835 of London’s lower-layer super output areas (LSOAs), which have an average of approximately 1,500 residents, or 650 households. The researchers calculated the correlation between changes in housing prices and the sociodemographic characteristics of each area. The results showed that large gains in life expectancy were most commonly found in areas where house prices were already high, or in areas where house prices had grown the most. As such, certain affluent regions in the city saw increases in life-chances.

Changes in life expectancy

The average life expectancy for women in London increased from 80.9 in 2002 to 85.4 in 2019. For men, the figure climbed from 76.1 to 81.6 during the same period. However, the study also found that life expectancy inequality – defined as the difference between the highest and lowest percentiles of the areas – had increased substantially. In 2019, the gap between the wealthiest and poorest areas was 19.1 years for women and 17.2 years for men. In 2002, these figures were 11.1 and 11.6 for women and men respectively.

The areas with the highest life expectancy in London were found to be the central districts of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, the City of London and Camden. These increases were seen independent of one’s gender. Lower life expectancy was more commonly found in areas throughout the capital,but was particularly prevalent in outer east and southeast London.

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Research conclusions

The researchers concluded that in areas where prices were high at the turn of the century, life expectancy increased substantially independently of price change, and with little change in the resident population. In contrast, in areas that started with lower prices, life expectancy only increased proportionally to price change, and was accompanied by a greater influx of new residents into the area.

This study highlights the growing divide between the wealthiest and poorest areas of London, and the impact that this has on the life expectancy of residents in these areas. The findings indicate that as house prices continue to rise in the city, this divide is likely to become even more pronounced.

Final thought

It is important to note that the study is observational, and correlation based, and it does not imply causality. The reasons behind the increase in life expectancy inequality could be diverse and multifactorial, it may be influenced by factors such as access to healthcare, education, and job opportunities, and not only by the increase in housing prices.

Additionally, the study only covers the London metropolitan area and it is not clear how generalisable the results are to other urban regions.

This study serves as a reminder of the need for policies and programs that address the growing divide between the wealthiest and poorest areas of London, and the impact that this has on the health and wellbeing of residents in these areas. This can include affordable housing, community development, and access to healthcare and education. By addressing these issues, it may be possible to reduce the gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest areas of London and improve the health and wellbeing of residents in these areas.

Given this scenario, efforts by the government in reducing these growing inequalities becomes imperative. Investments in housing, affordable healthcare, and in reducing unemployment go in tandem with increasing life-expectancy. The Government’s current levelling-up commitments, as such, become an avenue through which such investments can significantly help economically disadvantaged groups.

Curia’s 2023 Levelling Up Commission

Keeping this in mind, Curia’s Levelling Up Commission 2023 has been launched with the mission of researching how current policies can be better implemented to reduce regional inequalities from the perspective of public services in

  1. Health and Social Care
  2. Housing and Homelessness
  3. Education, Skills and Training
  4. Crime, Justice and Rehabilitation

For any queries regarding the commission or for information on getting involved, email Policy and Research Analyst Hal Arnold-Forster at hal.arnoldforster@chamberuk.com.

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