Up to 2.5 million years of life are being lost in England to those people dying prematurely each year, according to a new report.
The gap between the lifestyles of the rich and poor is having a major impact on the chances of living a healthy life, it suggested.
Life expectancy for the worst off has improved in the last decade - by an extra 2.9 years - but more needs to be done, said Professor Sir Michael Marmot, who led the Government-ordered review.
The report said: "Reducing health inequalities is a matter of fairness and social justice. In England, the many people who are currently dying prematurely each year as a result of health inequalities would otherwise have enjoyed, in total, between 1.3 and 2.5 million extra years of life."
The report called for an overhaul in some areas, including the income tax system. It said action is needed in six key areas, including giving every child the best start in life, creating fair employment and encouraging people into work, and working to prevent people falling ill in the first place.
One recommendation is for parents to be at home in the first year of a child's life, perhaps by the mother taking six months of paid leave, followed by six months for the father.
The report also calls for an overall increase in the amount of money spent supporting children in the first few years of life. Other recommendations are for more work-based learning schemes alongside closer links between schools, families and the community.
Once the government becomes responsible for your health, it becomes responsible for your life.