Updating Edwin Chadwick's seminal work on geographical inequalities by occupation

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Abstract

To honour the 175th anniversary of Edwin Chadwick's seminal ‘Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Poor’ we update Chadwick's famous analysis of geographical differences in occupational based inequalities. Much of the field of Health Geography owes both its direction of development and its initial impetus to his 1842 report. The report presented evidence for the importance of local context to health, with individuals of the lowest occupations in Rutland living longer than individuals of the highest occupations in Liverpool. Here we update the 1842 analysis using data from the Office of National Statistics on individual mortality records by occupation (2010-12) and population data from the 2011 Census. Sex-specific directly standardised premature (16-74) mortality rates were calculated for hierarchical occupational categories similar to Chadwick's categories, for the nearest equivalent areas to those used in Chadwick's report. Although there is no longer consistent evidence on individuals in the lowest occupational group having lower mortality rates than those in the highest group, there were clear social gradients in mortality within each area and the extent of these inequalities varied between areas. Individuals who live in Rutland had lower premature mortality rates across each occupational group compared to the other areas. Our results demonstrate that while life expectancy has nearly doubled since Chadwick's report, social and spatial inequalities in health have persisted. We suggest that Chadwick's legacy on the importance of locality continues.

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Green, M. A., Dorling, D., & Mitchell, R. (2018). Updating Edwin Chadwick’s seminal work on geographical inequalities by occupation. Social Science and Medicine, 197, 59–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.11.055

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