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Health inequalities: Age and gender case studies

The pandemic has had a profound impact across different demographic groups, explore case studies from councils who have worked to try and reduce health inequalities different ages groups face.

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The pandemic has had a profound impact on the wider health of the population – both physical and mental. But how people have been affected varies across different demographic groups. Rates of loneliness and social isolation have increased among older people as as the pandemic has disrupted the community groups, volunteering opportunities and social networks they relied on.

Even where activities are available, fear of the virus has made some reluctant to re-engage. This is all combining to have an impact on their independence and ability to do everyday tasks.

Working age adults have faced different challenges. Activity levels have fallen and social isolation too has increased.

While children are much less at risk of the virus, the disruption to school and their wider lives has had an impact. Children’s activity levels have fallen, while their mental health has worsened. One in six are estimated to have a probable mental disorder, up from one in nine in 2017.

And like other marginalised groups there is concern that the pandemic will just exacerbate the health inequalities the LGBTQ+ community faces.

The different challenges mean public health responses have to be tailored. Councils, working with their partners, are doing just that as the examples below show.

Older people are being supported in new ways in areas such as Kent and Sutton. They are focussing on helping older people reconnect with their communities and re-building their confidence and independence. 

Elsewhere councils are supporting men and women in different ways from a dedicated men’s health coordinator to a year-long physical activity campaign aimed at women. Meanwhile, Greater Manchester has led the way for some years with its approach to improving access to primary care services among the LGBTQ+ community - there is much that others can learn from that region. And to support children and young people, there are examples of councils and their partners keeping children active, supporting their emotional health and investing in services to help the most vulnerable.

Key statistics

  • One in four older people’s ability to do everyday activities has worsened during the pandemic (Age UK)
  • 94,000 fewer active children compared to before the pandemic with just 45 per cent achieving recommended levels (Sport England)
  • One in six children have probable mental disorder – up from one in nine in 2017 (NHS Digital)
  • 79.4 years life expectancy at birth for men, four years fewer than women (ONS)
  • A quarter of women’s lives are spent in ill-health or disability, compared to a fifth of men’s (ONS)
  • 16 per cent have negative experience of accessing public health services because of their sexual orientation (National LGBT Survey)
  • 38 per cent have negative experiences because of their gender identity (National LGBT Survey).

Council case studies