People in North of England 20% more likely to die early than those in the South, study finds

People living in the North of England are 20% more like to die early than Southerners in a growing health divide across the country, researchers have found.

A study of death records revealed "a tale of two Englands" which sees tens of thousands more people die prematurely in the North every year.

The study, led by the University of Manchester, found a consistent gap in the number of people who died early - which is considered as under the age of 75 - in data stretching from 1965 to 2015.

Lead researcher Professor Iain Buchan said the figures had revealed a stark gap as he called for action to reduce economic and social inequalities that can lead to early deaths.

Researchers have called for urgent action to reduce inequalities between the North and South. Credit: PA

Responding to the study, Dr Hakim Yadi, chief executive of the Northern Health Science Alliance, a partnership of universities and NHS organisations, said: "Health inequalities between the North and South of the country must be addressed by Government as a priority."

He said that research indicates that the Government invests less in health research funding in the North than in the South despite the "huge need" for work to reduce inequalities.

The study used data from the Office for National Statistics on the whole English population from 1965 to 2015.

Researchers compared death figures across the North - comprising the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands - to those in the South - comprising the East, South West, London and South East.

The full results will be published in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The Government said it was taking action but more must be done. Credit: PA

A Government spokeswoman said: "The causes of health inequalities are highly complex but we are taking action by addressing the root social causes, promoting healthier lifestyles and improving the consistency of NHS services etc.

"This Government is committed to creating a society where everybody gets the opportunity to make a success of their hard work - regardless of where they are from.

"Latest figures show the North West is the fastest growing region, while the North East has seen the biggest growth in employment over the past year.

"But there is clearly more to do, and we will continue to drive economic growth across the country as we create an economy that works for everyone."