‘Staggering’ figures lay bare deadly North-South divide

With the help of researchers at Manchester University, Sky News has built up a comprehensive picture of a health divide that exists between the North and the South of England.

It also shows that as well as cancer and heart disease, the big killers of young men aged between 25 and 44 in the North are alcohol, drugs and suicide.

Researchers say that since 1965, about 1.2 million more people have died before the age of 75 in the North than in the South.

‘Staggering’ figures lay bare deadly North-South divide
‘Staggering’ figures lay bare deadly North-South divide

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By the mid 1990s there was very little difference between early deaths in the North and the South, the study shows.

But by 2016, a gap had opened up, with an average of 1,177 more men aged between 25 and 44 dying in the North than in the South each year when population and age were taken into account.

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Senior author Dr Evan Kontopantelis, from the University of Manchester, said: “The numbers, we thought, were staggering.

“From 1990 onwards there has been a very big increase which has led to 50% increase in mortality which is a big number. The increase in numbers in the north are down to socio-economic deprivation.”

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Jonny lost his brother to suicide at the age of 36
Image:Jonny lost his brother to suicide at the age of 36

The study suggests deep division still exists between the two parts of England, a throwback to big social and economic changes that took place in the 1980s, when large swaths of industry in the North closed and unemployment levels rose.

Researchers say the North-South divide is apparent in the way GPs are funded.

The currently formula awards more money to London and rural areas – areas of least need – whilst more deprived areas in the North receive less money, despite having the greatest needs.

One of the biggest killers of men in the North is suicide. Jonny Sharples, whose brother Simon took his own life at the age of 36, is now campaigning to help prevent suicide.

He told Sky News: “If something is killing more men than anything else is killing young men you direct the money towards that to try and put a stop to try and limit it but they just don’t seem to be doing that.”

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Phil Moore discover alcohol at 16, the age many people start to experiment with drinking. - line 18
Image:Phil Moore discovered alcohol at 16, the age many people start to experiment with drinking

Phil Moore, a recovering alcoholic, believes northern men shy away from talking about their problems.

“My addiction is probably all told lasted about 10 years, but in the last three years it’s got really bad,” he said.

“There’s a northern macho attitude. To admit to having a problem is very difficult so the problems get worse before they get any better.”

Dr Kontopantelis says the government needs to address “stark funding inequalities” if the North-South divide is to be closed up.

He explained: “The North needs more investment. It needs smart investment. It needs to put more money into education, especially for the more deprived strata of the population.

“Government is still too centralised, too focused on the South and is not directing enough investment to the North and that has to change if we are to address these stark inequalities.”

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:: Line 18 is a journey through modern Britain in 2018. It runs the length of the UK from Northern Ireland into Scotland, passing through Lancashire, Manchester, the West Midlands, London and Essex.

It will examine the divides and fractures in society through the voices of those affected, and backed up by data which shines a new light on how Britain is changing.

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