North inequalities cost UK economy £7.3bn over first year of the pandemic

COVID-19 has had a major impact on everyone’s lives across the UK. However, a new report has found that northerners were affected more severely by the pandemic. People in the North were more likely to die from COVID-19, spent nearly a month and-a-half more in lockdowns, suffered worse mental health and were made poorer than the rest of England during the first year of the pandemic.

Research findings from National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaborations (NIHR ARCs) Yorkshire and Humber, Greater Manchester and North East and North Cumbria; have clearly revealed the devastating impact of the pandemic on people across the North of England.

Professor Kate Pickett, Theme Co-Lead for the Healthy Childhood theme at the Yorkshire and Humber ARC commented on the findings of the report:

“Covid-19 has exposed the deep fractures of inequality running across our society, revealing just how vulnerable we were - even before the pandemic health inequalities between North and South and rich and poor were condemning too many people to poor health and premature death, and undermining economic prosperity. Covid has made things worse, this has been an unequal pandemic imposed on an unequal society. Our report shows the extent of these unequal effects in the North and makes concrete policy recommendations to help Government reverse these trends and create a fairer future for the North of England.”

The report from the Northern Health Science Alliance, Policy@Manchester and northern NIHR ARCs found:

  • People living in the North had a 17% higher mortality rate due to COVID-19 than those in the rest of England. Their mortality rate due to all causes was 14% higher.

  • About half of the increased COVID-19 mortality in the North and two-thirds of the increased all-cause mortality were explained by potentially preventable higher deprivation and worse pre-pandemic health.

  • The North’s care home COVID-19 mortality was 26% higher than the rest of England.

  • In the North 10% more hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients than in the rest of England.

  • Increased mortality in the North of England could cost the national economy up to £7.3bn in lost productivity. This will likely to be a conservative underestimate given the North’s economy has also been hardest hit.

  • On average people living in the North had 41 more days of the harshest restrictions than people in the rest of the country.

  • The North experienced a larger drop in mental wellbeing, more loneliness, and higher rates of antidepressant prescriptions: there was a 55% increase in the presence of minor psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in the North compared to a 50% increase in the rest of England.

  • Wages in the North were lower than the rest of England before the pandemic and these fell further during the COVID-19 pandemic (from £543.90 to £541.30 per week) whereas wages increased in the rest of the country (from £600.80 to £604.00 per week).

  • The unemployment rate in the North was 19% higher than the rest of England.

Read the full report here: