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Separate lives? Rich and poor segregated in Camden

Life expectancy gap grows between wealthiest and worst off

15 July, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Richard Wilkinson authored  The Spirit Level book on inequality

SEGREGATION between rich and poor may be behind a massive increase in the life expectancy gap in Camden, according to one of the world’s leading experts in the field.

Professor Richard Wilkinson was responding to new statistics showing people living in richer areas of Camden survive, on average, almost 20 years longer than those living in poorer wards.

The gap, which has roughly doubled in just five years, is also caused by years of austerity cutbacks from central government and rising rents that were “felt most among the poorest”.

Prof Wilkinson’s seminal book, The Spirit Level, showed how areas with large gaps between rich and poor could in turn expect higher crime rates, mental illness, drug abuse, teenage births, mental illness and obesity.

He told the New Journal: “Some of the widening gap may well be a growing residential segregation between poorer and richer people. Maybe the richer areas are more homogeneously rich than they were, and the poorer areas less mixed than they were. Trends in house prices and the growth of the private rented sector might be expected to contribute to greater segregation.  In addition, widening income differences usually lead to increased segregation of rich and poor.”

He said “austerity, policy changes and deprivation more generally” were also “part of the story”, adding: “The common view is that the widening health differences caused by austerity are concentrated among the most vulnerable – the very old and very young.”

Recent research from the UK’s Institute of Health Equity has shown “faltering improvements in life expectancy at birth in England”.

Camden Council’s most recent annual health report said: “Men and women living in the most affluent parts of Islington can expect to live 10.4 more years in good health compared to those living in the least affluent parts; in Camden, the gap is even greater, at 17.6 and 19.3 years for men and women, respectively.”

Figures for 2014 had men living 10 years longer and women eight years longer.

The report added: “National data indicates a recent slowing down or a stalling of the steady increases in life expectancy we have seen over the past century in England.”

The Town Hall’s most recent major publication, Camden 2025, said: “We know that Camden is an unequal place, and the difference in healthy life expectancy between different parts of the borough is unacceptable.”

A statement said the council would work to create conditions that “support good health” and take “targeted action to improve the health and wellbeing of our more vulnerable residents across the borough”.

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