26 May 2020

The University of Melbourne’s Tim Adair: “People living in socially disadvantaged areas and outside major cities are much more likely to die prematurely, our new research shows. The study, published in the journal Australian Population Studies, reveals this gap has widened significantly in recent years, largely because rates of premature death among the least advantaged Australians have stopped improving. … Our research analysed trends in deaths between ages 35 and 74 years from 2006-16. We found people living in the 20% most socio-economically disadvantaged areas are twice as likely to die prematurely than those in the highest 20%. More worryingly, this gap in death rates between the most and least well-off sectors of the Australian population grew wider between 2011 and 2016. It widened by 26% for females and 14% for males. … Reducing this widening gap in rates of premature death will require a major policy effort. We need to understand and improve the many factors involved – including smoking, diet and alcohol use, education, employment, housing, and access to health care. We need to ensure policies and information campaigns are targeted to the population groups where death rates are highest and improvements have been slowest.” Needless to say, the impact of Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate this trend.