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Living in a poor neighbourhood ‘increases risk of ill-health and early death’

Obesity, excess drinking and suicide rates are all higher

People who live in a poor neighbourhood face a higher risk of ill-health and an early death, research shows.

The longer the person stays stuck in a deprived area, the more likely they are to suffer the health consequences, according to the study led by University College London.

Researchers found the most common poor health outcome for people in poor regions was a premature death, followed by obesity, excess drinking and suicide. 

The review of 53 studies includes data from countries including the US, UK, Finland, Japan, Sweden and New Zealand.

Of those studies, 18% found that premature death was the most common poor health outcome recorded for those living in a deprived neighbourhood.

A further 16% of the studies found participants in deprived areas were more likely to be obese or have a high body mass index, followed by 15% which found increased rates of smoking, drinking alcohol and eating unhealthily.

Poor mental health was found to affect people in deprived neighbourhoods in 10% of studies, according to the findings published in the European Journal of Public Health.

“The weight of evidence suggests neighbourhood effects accumulate over the life course when exposure to a poor socioeconomic context is sustained,” the authors wrote. “This is the case for outcomes of adolescent parenthood, chronic conditions, disability, smoking, BMI, mortality and physical function.”

The researchers believe the effects can be reversed if a person moves away from a deprived neighbourhood as a child.

Tim Elwell-Sutton, Healthy Lives assistant director at the Health Foundation, told MailOnline that people in deprived neighbourhoods generally have less money, which affects how in control of your life you feel.

“Eating healthily is more expensive. And we know a safe, warm house is fundamental for health, too. Being unemployed or on a zero-hour type contract isn’t good for your health either. In more deprived areas, work-life balance may not be as good,” he added.