Job rates 'affect local health'

A greater risk of premature death is faced by people living in areas of England with long-term low employment, new research has claimed.

The study by Durham University also showed that residents of these areas were much more likely to suffer from illnesses such as arthritis, asthma, heart conditions and back problems.

The research by geographers based at Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, used information from more than 200,000 people from the Office for National Statistics longitudinal study.

It took into account a range of factors such as age, sex and mobility and populations were compared in groups of areas, according to local levels of employment.

Assisted by the University's Wolfson Research Institute, the researchers believe that the findings indicate the importance to health of regional policies and targeted employment initiatives.

Co-author of the study, Professor Sarah Curtis, said: "Employment rates affect local conditions that are important for the health of everyone in an area, not only workers who may be in or out of work. It is important to sustain efforts to create and support permanent jobs in areas with persistently low employment rates, not least because this is important for the health of the population.

"Investment in secure employment and healthy working conditions is likely to reduce costs to society in terms of health and social care provision, and welfare benefit payments. Low employment and reports of poor health are connected and we need to look at how we can maintain and boost employment in areas with deep-seated deprivation."

The authors believe the findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, show the extent of health inequality in England and the challenges facing communities at a time of economic hardship.

These challenges include improving job stability and community cohesion, providing things like business assistance and flexible working and raising overall living standards.

Prof Curtis said: "In Britain at present there is concern about evidence of growing inequality between groups of people. In our study we are sounding a note of caution about growing inequalities between areas of the country. There may be long-term costs to health from policies that draw employment away from an area or withdraw resources from areas of need."