Poverty shapes every aspect of our lives—as a BBC documentary highlighted this week.
The Panorama crew travelled to Stockton-on-Tees, in Teesside, to meet the residents of an area which has a life expectancy of just 64 for men.
The life expectancy gap between rich and poor has been getting bigger for two decades. Nationally, men in wealthier areas live 8.4 years longer than those in poorer areas. That’s up from 7.2 years in 2001.
But in the most deprived parts of Britain, that gap grows massively.
Just five miles from Stockton lies the much more affluent Yarm, where residents there can expect to live 18 years longer than those in the poorer parts of the area.
Dr David Hodges, a GP in Stockton said it was “a disgrace. We need to be fixing this. People have the right to get to retirement age healthy.”
Tories and bigots like to claim that dying young is simply a result of personal lifestyle choices.
But health outcomes are a reflection of a society that is shaped by class. Those with more money can afford to buy fresh healthy food, or pay for gym membership or childcare.
And working in low-paid, insecure employment means often workers can’t take time off if they are ill.
Professor Clare Bambra, from Newcastle University led a five-year study into health inequality in Stockton. She pointed out, “The poor are dying younger because they have less money in order to live a healthy life.
“They have more pressures on them, they have more insecurity and they have less control over their life.”
This is all compounded by brutal Tory austerity, which has destroyed so many NHS and social care services. In many cases, these offered early intervention for life-threatening conditions.
But the Tories won’t admit their budget cuts are directly responsible for shocking statistics in Stockton and many other poorer parts of Britain.
Earlier this year, a department for health and social care spokesperson said that “health inequality is a challenging and complex area, but we are committed to tackling this issue.”
But what isn’t “challenging and complex” to understand is the fact that the Tories have slashed Stockton’s annual council budget by £35.5 million.
Public health and social care initiatives should be developed, properly funded and rolled out.
It is a disgrace that people are worked to death before they even reach retirement age.
There is money to fund essential public health services, but it’s in the pockets of the rich. It will take building a socialist society that affords working class people health and dignity to make this a reality.