UK life expectancy has fallen to its lowest levels since 2003 due to widening social inequalities and rising avoidable deaths in disadvantaged communities, research by academics at the London School of Economics (LSE) has revealed.
LSE’s analysis of mortality data shows the UK is not only failing to reduce avoidable deaths, for instance alcohol consumption and suicide, among under-50s, but such fatalities are increasing among certain graphics.
Life expectancy for this age group ever-rises in most key European countries, but the UK is falling behind, with national figures indicating deaths are now the leading causes of death among adults aged 20-49.
I’ve updated my analysis of inequalities in health and life expectancy data to use the most recent ONS data.— stuart mcdonald (@ActuaryByDay) July 21, 2019
The most deprived group of men live 9 fewer years compared to the least deprived group. What’s more, despite living less long they spend 9 more years in poor health. 1/5 pic.twitter.com/zoHbBuHY3J
The Health Foundation, which commissioned the report, warned the findings demonstrated the UK was following “worrying” trends seen in the US, where there’s been a significant spike in alcohol and drug related deaths among young people in recent years – although in Scotland drug-related death rates exceed those of the US, with 218 deaths per million, compared to 217 per million.
The research also found women living in the most deprived areas of the UK are expected to live for 78 years and eight months, versus 86 years and two months in the richest, while the average life expectancy for women, 83 years, is one of the lowest among comparable countries, over three years less than Spain.
The Health Foundation is now calling for Whitehall to set up a new independent body to scrutinise mortality data and relevant government policy.
“These research findings demonstrate just how important it is we closely monitor life expectancy and mortality trends, particularly for the most vulnerable people in society. Mortality data is complex and we need an independent view on not only how long people are living for but also why they are dying. This needs to be a priority for the incoming government, so that its findings can start influencing local and national policies as soon as possible,” said Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation.
Michael Murphy, Professor of Demography at London School of Economics and author of the report, added that there’d been “a general slowdown” in mortality improvement in many high-income countries, including the UK.
“Appropriate action to address such adverse trends, which appear to bear most heavily on the less advantaged in UK society, requires understanding of the underlying causes. These causes are multiple and complex—working across all age-groups, seasons and both sexes—and while further work is required to uncover these relationships, some of the simplified explanations that have been advanced are clearly inadequate,” he concluded.
Public Health England declined to comment on the report due to the upcoming general election.