The Tyee has published a long article on a major UBC study that illustrates how economic inequality has a real effect on the length of time we, as individuals in Metro Vancouver, can expect to live. Put simply, people who live in affluent neighbourhoods tend to live a decade longer than those living in the poorest sections.

“The study involved UBC researchers working with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and with Imperial College, London. Its ambitious goal was to track life expectancy and major causes of deaths in Greater Vancouver over a quarter-century, from 1990 to 2016. Moreover, they broke the numbers down to the census-tract-level — in effect, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Overall, the study offers an invaluable portrait of our collective health before the pandemic.”

The study notes that:

“Between 1991 and 2016, there was a downward trend in the LE [life expectancy] gap, whereby the lowest gap was observed in 2001 (6.9 years for females and 7.9 for males), but this reversed and increased by 1.4-1.6 years between 2001 and 2016.” By a wild coincidence, 2001 was the year the BC Liberals won a huge majority over the NDP and ran the province under Gordon Campbell and then Christy Clark until 2017.British researchers noticed a very similar effect during Margaret Thatcher’s years in power.”

That seems to show a direct and almost immediate correlation between austerity politics and public health.

The difference between neighbourhoods was stark. As the report notes:

“Within the City of Vancouver, we observed a 10-year gap in LE for males in [census tracts] located within 5 kilometres of each other.”

After reviewing the causes of death, the Tyee article concludes:

“Our health-care system is dangerously stretched and facing unprecedented occupational health and safety threats. Those with “routine” medical needs are being missed or delayed, becoming collateral damage. The top 10 per cent set the policies that decreed the early deaths of the bottom 10 per cent, and many of the rest of us in the middle. Now they — or we — need to set new policies that will protect everyone’s health and lifespans. Even if the rich don’t like it, they will have longer to brood over their misfortunes than the rest of us will.”


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