Why will I live so long?

“If you travel east on the Jubilee line from Westminster to Canning Town, each of the tube stops represents a year of life expectancy lost. That’s eight years in less than 20 minutes.” –The Jellied Eel

As thousands of people travel underground next year between Central London and the Olympics in Stratford they will be racing underneath evidence of the health inequalities that continue to blight Britain.

The difference in life expectancy between Westminster and Canning Town is almost exactly the same as the difference between the average life expectancy in 1960 and the present day. In a country with an enormous amount of wealth, a health service that is free and available to all (at the moment) and the number of smokers falling by 3/4 in 50 years surely we should be living longer or, at the very least, all our lives should be roughly the same length?

It isn’t just within London that life expectancy varies to a quite startling degree. A baby born today in Glasgow is likely to live more than a decade less long than one born in David Cameron’s Notting Hill.  We have no doubt, therefore, that health inequalities exist in Britain but why exactly is it that means I am more likely get a telegram from The Queen than my brother’s neighbours in Scotland?

The for health inequality in The UK is an obvious one. It’s the one that you probably know but might not like to think about. It isn’t because Glasgow is smoggy and London has clean air or because people in Barlanark drink lager while people in Beaconsfield work out. Behind the statistics lies a stark, and for the the rich especially, unnerving fact. Health Inequalities exist, broadly speaking, because wealth inequalities exist. In research undertaken by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation into health inequalities their first recommended course of action was not radical, but entirely sensible: ‘‘A modest redistribution of wealth”. Yet, despite this research being undertaken in the year 2000, no government seems to have cottoned onto the fact that wealth and health are inseparable as measurements of a population’s well-being.

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