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Letter: Turn again, Norris

Sir: The "prosperous southern communities of Esher and Wokingham" should not be led astray by the Bristol University Townsend Centre report that they have better health and greater life expectation than poorer parts of the UK community ("Preventable deaths rise as health gap widens", 2 December).

When the UK is compared with other countries, our well-off seem not quite so well-off. Research at Sussex University has shown that when we compare our professional and managerial classes, those in Sweden have a mortality rate which is 20 per cent better than ours. The Japanese, who were neck and neck with us 25 years ago, now have the greatest life expectancy of the industrialised nations.

These discrepancies arise from the difference in income between the richest and the poorest, with the increase in stress brought about by high differentials leading to higher rates of overworking, drug-taking, crime, insecurity and suchlike, all of which affect the richest as well as the poorest. Which is why perhaps, the Americans do even less well than we do.

Our policy of blaming the poor for their poverty is an oversimplification which hurts the rich as well.