On average, people in the UK are now projected to live shorter lives than previously thought. For the first time in over a century, the health of people in England and Wales has stopped improving.
In their projections, published in October 2017, statisticians at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that by 2041, life expectancy for women would be 86.2 years and 83.4 years for men. In both cases, that’s almost a whole year less than had been projected just two years earlier. And the statisticians said life expectancy would only continue to creep upwards in future.
As a result, and looking further ahead, a further one million earlier deaths are now projected to happen across the UK in the next 40 years by 2058.
If you are in your forties or fifties and live in the UK this is mostly about you. Almost all of the million people now projected to die earlier than before – well over four-fifths of them – will be people who are currently in this age group: 411,000 women and 404,000 men aged between 40 and 60. Child, infant mortality and still births have also not improved recently – and again this has recently been linked to under-funding resulting in under-staffing in the NHS.
The British Medical Journal Openconcluded that severe public spending cuts in the UK were associated with 120,000 deaths between 2010 and 2017.
Life expectancy for women in the UK is now lower than in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. Often it is much lower. Men do little better.
The UK’s lowly position in the European league table means that the stalling in life expectancy improvements has nothing to do with a limit being reached. As yet, nowhere has reached a limit, and many countries are now far ahead of the UK. In almost all other of the most affluent countries, apart from the US, people live longer lives than in the UK, often many years longer. There is no biological reason why life expectancy should be so low in the UK compared to almost all other affluent nations.
The ONS project that there will be more than an extra 25,000 deaths between July 2017 and June 2018. Then an extra 27,000 deaths in the 12 months after that, more than an extra 28,000 deaths the year after that – and on and on and on. It now looks as if we should come to expect heightened mortality year after year until the end of our lives.