Inequalities in early deaths between different parts of Britain have nearly surpassed those seen shortly before the economic crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression, a new study said Friday.
"Inequalities continued to rise steadily during the first decade of the 21st century... and could become worse," warned the study, published in the British Medical Journal's online edition.
The study said the divide had "persisted over many years and recent government efforts to reduce them have not had any great impact as yet.
"The gap in health inequalities has widened over the past 10 years, reflecting widening inequality in wealth and income," it added.
Researchers from the universities of Sheffield and Bristol built on previous studies of socioeconomic differences in mortality, using updated population estimates and a new more, accurate way of measuring poverty.
They analysed mortality data for England, Wales and Scotland using statistics for the entire population aged under 75 from 1990 to 2007 and the whole population under 65 from 1921-39, 1950-53, 1959-63, 1969-73 and 1981-2007.
The study found that "geographical inequalities in age-sex standardised rates of mortality below age 75 have increased every two years from 1990-1 to 2006-7 without exception."
The poorest people were 1.6 times more likely to die prematurely than the most affluent people in 1990-1. But by 2006-7, the worst off people were twice as likely to die before the richest.
And despite a small reduction in inequalities around 2001, the trend was short-lived and inequalities for people up to 75 years old are now the highest ever reported since at least 1990.
"Although life expectancy for all people is increasing, the gap between the best and worst districts is continuing to increase," the researchers concluded.
"The economic crash of 2008 might precede even greater inequalities in mortality between areas in Britain."