Title: Nutritional, socio-economic and health status

Key words: Acheson Report, health inequalities, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, antioxidants, heart disease, gender differences, intelligence, education

Date: March 2001

Category: Food and the environment

Type: Article

Author: Kate Neil (NS3)


Nutritional, socio-economic and health status

The Acheson Report in 1998 highlighted inequalities in health in England and identified priority areas for the development of policies to reduce them.

Scientific evidence traced the roots of these inequalities to determinants such as: income, education, employment, and to the material environment and lifestyle1.

Health inequalities have been rising when the richest and poorest groups have been compared e.g. in the 1970s the difference in mortality rate between men in class V was twice that in class 1. In 1980, the Black Report indicated that ill health was more prevalent among people with low incomes and that they were more likely to die prematurely.

The Acheson Report considered it crucial to target the health of families with children, provide measures to reduce income inequalities, and improve the living standards of poor households. The Report identified other target groups including: pregnant women, young people, adults of working age, older people, ethnic and gender inequalities.

It is now accepted that members of lower income households have poorer health experiences including:

Identifiable patterns include:

The National Food Survey and the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys provide the best data. Surveys find with lower socio-economic status:

Surveys also indicate geographical differences:

Lower socio-economic households tend to:

Education, combined with a commitment to provide practical strategies for improving conditions for socio-economically deprived groups is vital if this trend is to be reversed. Reduced intelligence associated with iron deficiency and poor polyunsaturated:saturated fat ratios, combined with the concept of the Barker hypothesis make it virtually impossible for the lower socio-economic groups to transcend their position.

Information Sources

  1. Butriss Judy, 2000, Lecture Notes for MSc Programme Nutritional Medicine Principles of Applied Nutritional Science
  2. Butriss Judy, Nutrition in General Practice, Promoting Health and Preventing Disease
  3. Christie Samantha, Dietary Surveys Reveal Serious Micronutrient Deficiencies, The Nutrition Practitioner, Vol 1, Issue 1, Feb 1999
  4. Trends in Patterns of Disease and Diet, Fact File Number 10, National Dairy Council, 1993
  5. Breastfeeding in the United Kingdom in 1995, Office for National Statistics
  6. Gregory et al, The Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (MSc handout)
  7. Gregory et al, National Diet and Nutrition Survey: children aged 11/2 to 41/2 years Summary Report (MSc handout)
  8. Smithers et al, The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: people aged 65 years and over, Nutrition and Food Science, May/June 1998 pp133-137
  9. DJP Barker, The foetal origins of adult disease, Proc R Soc Lond B 1995; 262: 37-43