Arch Dis Child 98:850-855 doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-303403
  • Original article

Inequality trends in health and future health risk among English children and young people, 1999–2009

Open AccessEditor's Choice
  1. Russell M Viner1
  1. 1General and Adolescent Paediatrics Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  2. 2Women and Children's Services, Imperial College NHS Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr D Hargreaves, General and Adolescent Paediatrics Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford St, London WC1N 1EH, UK; d.hargreaves{at}
  • Received 15 November 2012
  • Revised 23 April 2013
  • Accepted 24 April 2013
  • Published Online First 30 May 2013


Objective To investigate trends in health inequality among children and young people between 1999 and 2009, using outcomes consistent with the current NHS reforms.

Design/data Secondary analysis of participants aged 0–24 in the Health Surveys for England (HSE) undertaken in 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

Main outcome measures Changes in the absolute and relative risks of four health outcomes by deprivation tertiles, based on occupation of the head of household

▸ self/parent-reported general health,

▸ presence of a long-standing illness (LSI),

▸ obesity

▸ smoking.

Results No indicator showed a reduction in relative or absolute inequality between 1999 and 2009. For children (0–12 years), the relative risk comparing the most and least deprived tertiles increased significantly for poor general health (1999:1.6 (95% CI 1.2 to 2.2); 2009:3.9 (2.4 to 6.2), while the absolute difference in LSI prevalence(%) increased from 1.3 (−2.9 to 5.5) to 7.4 (3.6 to 11.4). Among young people (13–24 years), the absolute difference in LSI prevalence increased from −5.9 (−10.9 to −1.1) to 3.1 (−4.1 to 10.7). Absolute inequality in having tried smoking among children aged 8–15(%) increased significantly in the first half of the decade before decreasing in the second half (1999:3.3 (−1.1 to 7.7); 2004:14.1 (9.6 to 18.8); 2009:4.1 (0.1 to 8.8)). However, the increase in absolute inequality for smoking prevalence among young adults (16–24 years) was maintained throughout the decade (1999:−7.0 (−15.6 to 1.3); 2004:11.6 (3.7 to 20.0); 2009:8.2 (−0.3 to 16.9)).

Conclusions The national programme between 1999 and 2009 was not successful in reducing inequality in four key indicators of health status and future health risk among children and young people. Some inequality measures for general health, LSI prevalence and smoking increased over this time.

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