Most journalists do not lie. Sometimes the Guardian does come close, however. Think of the recent headline in the Guardian ‘Women May Not Live Longer Than Men after All‘ – that article misrepresented a study that had been published in the BMJ showing that when you control for confounding variables, women live longer than men, on average.
Sometimes, the Guardian misleads by to choosing what to foreground and what to relate to relegate to ‘small print.’ Take the article that appeared in the Guardian 15/8/22, Poorest women in England have the same ill health at 60 as richest at 76 – study – that discusses a report from the Health Foundation. The report is informative and does not focus on women’s health to the same degree that the Guardian article does.
The report leaves us with no doubt that socio-economic deprivation is an important driver of ill health and premature death. People (both sexes) who live in poorer areas become ill earlier in life and die sooner.
A sub-headline of the Health Foundation report is that inequalities in life expectancy are wider for men, but women spend longer in ill health. It would be fair to say that the health impacts of socioeconomic deprivation weigh heavily on men and women but in slightly different ways. Men living in the poorest areas live, on average, 9 years fewer than their counterparts in the wealthiest areas.
The report does show that women spend longer living with ‘diagnosed illness’ (this may not be the same thing as chronic ill health as disability or handicap was not measured). This may be because women have more time to develop those illnesses and perhaps because of the greater access to health care they have, more opportunities to receive those ‘diagnostic labels.’
The report also showed a north-south divide with people in the north of England suffering more ill health and premature mortality. That is something that wouldn’t interest the Guardian, which views the North as a nasty and dirty place that harbours Brexit voters and contains the former ‘red wall’ constituencies.
The article in the Guardian was not a terrible one, but it did entrench the belief that health disparities primarily affect women. They do not. The article was also an improvement on the Alexandra Topping style of invective that is designed to polarise opinion rather than inform. However, that isn’t saying much.