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North and South: Regional Health Inequalities in England

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North and South: Regional Health Inequalities in England

A definitive study of the ‘North-South health divide’ and regional health inequalities in England. 

This five-year project aims to deliver a transformative change in our understanding of health inequalities.

The work is funded by a  Wellcome Trust grant (awarded in 2020) and delivered by a team from Newcastle University, led by Professor Clare Bambra, Inequalities Lead for the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria.


The ‘North-South health divide’ in England is longstanding, with a two-year difference in average life expectancy between the northern regions and the rest of England.

  • People in the north have higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy than those in the south – across all groups.
  • Premature death rates are now 20% higher for those living in the North and since – with over 1.5 million northerners dying before their time.
  • England’s regional health inequalities are amongst the largest in Europe and there is evidence that they are increasing – particularly amongst younger adults.
  • Life expectancy in deprived southern local authorities is also improving more quickly than in similarly deprived northern areas.

This means that the North is falling further behind.

Despite this clear divide, and frequent reference to it by policy makers and the media, the drivers of this divide haven’t been studied in any detail.

Health inequalities research so far has focused almost exclusively on examining inequalities measured by neighbourhood-level deprivation or by individual-level socio-economic status, rather than at a much broader North-South regional level.

Research so far also hasn’t focussed on wider economic and political factors, such as recessions, austerity, health policies – and the impact these can have on health outcomes further down the line.

This work aims to ‘scale-up’ our understanding of health inequalities by comprehensively examining regional inequalities in health – including the factors that influence both place and health, and by taking a multi-disciplinary approach.

Using a novel, mixed-methods, intensive, multi-disciplinary approach, this North and South project will provide the definitive academic account of the ‘North-South health divide’ and regional inequalities in health in England – within the wider European experience.

By drawing on concepts, data and methods from geography, epidemiology, sociology, history, social policy and literary studies, the project will enhance our understanding of the ‘North-South health divide’; provide insights into how to close the gap; and advance the international health inequalities research field.

Sharing the knowledge

The project will be developed into an edited book with chapters contributed by project staff and students, bringing together the results of the different work packages – and enabling the insights from different methodologies, data and disciplines to be integrated.

Overall, we hope that this work will deliver a transformative change in our understanding of health inequalities.

If you would like more detailed information about this project and the work packages outlined in this summary, please email [email protected]

 You can download a more detailed project summary, below.

The research team

Prof Clare Bambra
Dr Vic McGowan
Julija Simpson
Dr Andrew Kingston
Dr Courtney McNamara
Dr Kate Bernard
Prof John Wildman
Tim Price
Dr Shelina Visram
Prof Anne Whitehead
Dr Ella Dzelzainis
Elisabeth Sands
Dr Vicky Long
Dr Eric Tourigny
Michael Henderson
Niall Cunningham
Viviana Albani
Natalie Bennett
Cara Leavey
Victoria Morgan

North and South: Regional Health Inequalities in England - project details