Life expectancy in England is no longer improving, and austerity could be to blame, according to a leading health expert.
Sir Michael Marmot of University College London said he was “deeply concerned” by the “historically highly unusual” situation, where life expectancy across England was no longer improving year on year.
The professor of epidemiology said it was “entirely possible” that the government’s policies of austerity and cuts to public services could be to responsible, and called on the Department of Health to investigate the issue.
Between 2000 and 2010, life expectancy at birth increased by around one year every five years for women and by one year every 3.5 years for men. However, since 2010 the growth more than halved, with life expectancy growth near zero in 2015. This compares poorly to places like Hong Kong, where life expectancy is similar t that of the UK, and rises have continued unabated for the last seven years.
Marmot explained that it is impossible to find a single cause for the decline in growth as education, employment, poverty, and location all play a roles in determining life expectancy, but made clear the stagnation was an issue of great concern and the “miserly” funding the government has provided for the NHS and social care could be major factors.
The difference in life expectancy differences between rich and poor areas of the UK have become worse in recent years. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2012 to 2014, life expectancy for newborn baby boys was highest in Kensington and Chelsea at 83.3 years and lowest in Blackpool at 74.7 years, while for newborn baby girls, life expectancy was highest in Chiltern at 86.7 years and lowest in Middlesbrough at 79.8 years.