Health is a social class issue

Social circumstances throughout life, from birth to late adulthood,
influence people’s health

Men in professional occupations tend to suffer the same rates of death
wherever they live in England, while rates for unskilled working men are
generally worse in the north than the south, Chief Medical Officer for England
Professor Liam Donaldson has said.

In his first annual report on the state of public health in England,
Professor Donaldson argued that being poor in the north was worse for your
health than being poor in the south – but that those in professional
occupations were generally able to transcend this trend.

Access to better educational and employment opportunities and living in a
better quality environment were all associated with better health, he said.

Other findings included the fact that some parts of the country,
particularly the North West and North East of England, had death rates which
were largely unchanged from the national average in the 1950s.

"Social circumstances throughout life – from birth to late adulthood –
influence people’s health. In particular social, economic and environmental
deprivation have a profound and overriding impact on health. Lifestyle factors
such as smoking, diet, and physical activity are also important," said
Professor Donaldson.

"Targeting the poorest sections of the population is important to
improve their health, but this alone will not close the inequalities gap; many
more people at risk of poor health are in manual social classes. Achieving
improvements in their health will make a large contribution to reducing
inequalities overall."

More work needed to be done on improving the health of ‘blue-collar’
workers, he added.

The report also examined the effects of smoking, epilepsy, high blood
pressure, coronary heart disease and e-coli on the population.

www.doh.gov.uk/cmo/annualreport2001

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