The NHS is a strongly redistributive social benefit 'worth' up to pounds1,900 a year in post-tax income to the poorest one-fifth of households. Government economists calculate that households in the top 20 per cent income group, by contrast, benefit to an estimated value of pounds1,330. The average value of the NHS to all households is pounds1,660, compared with pounds1,290 for education.

People in manual jobs are more likely to smoke than non-manual workers, while professionals are considerably less likely to smoke than any other group. By 1986-87 almost equal proportions of men and women smoked, with the proportion of men continuing to fall, to 29 per cent, while the proportion of women rose slightly, to 28 per cent. Children are more likely to smoke if others in the family, particularly brothers or sisters, do so.

People in the sunnier South West of England have a higher rate of malignant melanoma than those in any other part of the UK. Incidence of the disease rose throughout the 1970s and 1980s, declined for several years at the turn of the decade, and then turned upwards once again. Mortality from malignant melanoma has also increased, but less rapidly thanks to better identification and treatment.

A dramatic rise in the number of people being diagnosed as asthmatic from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s seems to have gone into reverse, with figures declining from a weekly peak of

50 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 38 in 1996. But the rate of new diagnoses remains almost double that of the early 1980s.

overmatter from box