The more deprived areas in both England and Wales experienced a higher number of deaths from leading causes such as heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer than less deprived areas, according to new analysis.

Past analysis has shown that people in areas of high deprivation don’t live as long. For instance, men in the Hampshire town of Hart, the least deprived local authority in England, outlive men in the most deprived area, Blackpool, by almost eight years. Women in Hart outlive their female peers in Blackpool by almost seven years. 

What is deprivation?

Deprivation is an overall measure based on factors such as income, employment, health and education within an area.

Heart disease was the biggest killer of men

The leading cause of death for males in both England and Wales in 2016 was heart disease, with more than 32,000 deaths in England and more than 2,300 in Wales. More people in deprived areas died as a result of heart disease, and more men suffered than women.

Risk factors such as a poor diet and lack of exercise increase the chances of a person developing a form of heart disease compared to someone who leads a healthy lifestyle.

Number of deaths as a result of heart disease, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s was the biggest killer of women

For women in England and Wales combined, the leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with more than 41,000 women dying from this cause in 2016. This was almost double the number of men who died as a result of these diseases.

There was a higher number of deaths as a result of dementia and Alzheimer's among those living in mid-deprived areas of England, and in Wales.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not fully understood, and at present there is no cure. There are treatments available to slow down the effects of the diseases and NHS research suggests that some lifestyle factors like diabetes and smoking, which are linked with cardiovascular disease, can increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

According to Alzheimer's Research UK, age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Number of deaths as a result of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Overall, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease were the two leading causes of death in both England, and in Wales in 2016.

The trend in deprivation and deaths

The top 10 leading causes of death were the same for males and females in both England and Wales, although in a slightly different ranking order. After heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, for men the third-biggest killer was lung cancer, and for women it was cerebrovascular diseases.

Lung cancer

Cancers or tissue growths (neoplasms) in the trachea, bronchus and/or lung were a major cause of death for men in 2016, with approximately 16,500 deaths compared with nearly 14,000 deaths among women in both England and Wales combined. In the most deprived areas, men are twice as likely to die from these cancers compared with the least deprived areas.

In 85% of cases where a patient has lung cancer, smoking is the biggest risk factor. However, people who have never smoked can also develop this disease.

Number of deaths as a result of lung cancer, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Strokes and brain haemorrhages

For women, the third most common cause of death was cerebrovascular diseases, which includes strokes and brain haemorrhages.

Responsible for nearly 19,000 female deaths and approximately 14,000 male deaths in England, and in Wales combined, cerebrovascular diseases caused higher numbers of deaths in the mid-deprived areas. The exact causes of strokes and haemorrhages are not known, but there are risk factors such as smoking and inactivity that increase the risk of developing these diseases.

Number of deaths as a result of cerebrovascular diseases, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Respiratory diseases

Ranking highly for both men and women across both England and Wales were chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which were much more prevalent causes of death in more deprived areas.

Causes of respiratory diseases include smoking, pollution and exposure to dangerous substances.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of respiratory disease. According to the NHS, smoking is thought to be responsible for 9 out of 10 cases.

People who work around exhaust fumes and substances such asbestos and silica are at a much higher risk of developing a respiratory disease.

Number of deaths as a result of respiratory diseases, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Leading causes specific to males and females

When looking at sex-specific leading causes of deaths, female deaths from breast cancer and male deaths from prostate cancer are more prevalent in areas of mid to low deprivation levels in England.

This trend can't be seen as clearly in Wales, but there is a slight pattern of higher occurrences of death in mid-deprived areas.

The reasons as to why women develop breast cancer and why men develop prostate cancer are unclear but there are many risk factors associated with both cancers. One of these is age. As a person gets older, the risk of developing one of these cancers increases. It is also thought that those living in less deprived areas tend to live longer than those in more deprived areas.

Number of deaths as a result of prostate cancer and breast cancer, 2016

Embed code

Download the data.

Click here to view and download all of the data used in this visual.ONS article.

For more information, please contact:

Other Visual.ONS articles:

Causes of death over 100 years

You draw the charts: 60 Years of Change

House prices: How much does one square metre cost in your area? 


  • Deprivation is measured using The Index Multiple of Deprivation (IMD). There are different measurements for England and Wales, which are not comparable.