The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics shows that levels of avoidable mortality in the absence of public health interventions across England and Wales remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

It also shows widening regional inequalities in avoidable mortality, a rise in the mortality rate for children and young people, and a rise in alcohol and drug-related deaths. 

Avoidable mortality is a regional issue

The data shows stark regional inequalities in the country. Avoidable mortality in Blackpool is almost 3.5 times higher than in Hart, Hampshire (455.3 and 133.2 per 100,000 people respectively). 

Avoidable mortality numbers for England and Wales went down in 2022 when compared to 2020, but they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

Avoidable age-standardised mortality rate for children and young people has been rising since 2020. For England, in 2022, it was 9.6 per 100,000 people, compared to 8.1 in 2020. 

The top causes for avoidable deaths in children and young people in 2021-2022 were diseases of the respiratory system (from 68 to 107 respectively), followed by infectious diseases (from 45 to 71 respectively). Alcohol-related and drug-related deaths also increased from 68 in 2021 to 80 in 2022.


How we can reverse the trend

Last week, the Royal Society for Public Health published its ‘vision for a healthier future’, arguing that urgent and sustained action is needed from the next government to help reduce health inequalities, child poverty and the crisis of ill health in the workforce. 

Commenting on the release of the data, William Roberts FRSPH, Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health, said: 

“The rise in deaths that can be considered avoidable is tragic. The data also illustrates that where people are born and live continues to have a massive impact on their life, their health and when they die.   

The situation is stark. Behind the stats is enormous suffering and years spent living in ill health that could be avoided. It is also heartbreaking to see mortality rates rising for children and young people. 

As the ONS makes clear, this is avoidable – it doesn’t have to be this way, lives do not have be cut short. We know that public health interventions work. However, they can’t happen without sustained investment in services that take prevention into the heart of our communities.  

The country is going to the polls in a matter of weeks. Preventing ill health needs to be at the forefront of the next government’s agenda and the public health workforce will be a vital partner in doing this.  

Whoever forms the next government will need to act quickly. We have secured the greatest impact on the nation’s health when we have been bold.  

Everyone stands to benefit from building a healthier and more productive future. Ultimately, this will be key to unlocking future prosperity.”