Inequalities in health exist, whether measured in terms of mortality, life expectancy or health status; whether categorised by socioeconomic measures or by ethnic group or gender. Recent efforts to compare the level and nature of health inequalities in international terms indicate that Britain is generally around the middle of comparable western countries, depending on the socioeconomic and inequality indicators used. Although in general disadvantage is associated with worse health, the patterns of inequalities vary by place, gender, age, year of birth and other factors, and differ according to which measure of health is used.
Death rates have been falling over the last century, from a crude death rate of 18 per thousand people in 1896 to 11 per thousand in 1996. Over the last 25 years, there have been falls in death rates from a number of important causes of death, for example lung cancer (for men only), coronary heart disease and stroke. Life expectancy has risen over the last century, but not all life is lived in good health. …
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