While the average blood pressure of adults fell between 1991 and 1996, working-class women are more prone to high blood pressure than their wealthier counterparts. Poorer people are also more likely to be overweight, according to the survey of 16,000 adults and 4,000 children.
The survey, which classifies the nation according to social class and where we live, will be used by the Government to help draw up its forthcoming consultative Green Paper on health.
Ministers want to set up "health action zones" and "healthy living centres" in the more deprived areas of the country to develop policies to enable people to live longer and healthier lives. The study, the sixth annual Health Survey for England, found that between 1991 and 1996, the number of obese men rose from 13 per cent to 16 per cent and women from 15 per cent to 17 per cent.