Life expectancy in England and Wales is improving at a slower rate than in 20 other wealthy countries ‘because of NHS and social care funding cuts’
- Life expectancy in England and Wales has all but stalled since 2011, study found
- Improved by less than five weeks for women and fewer than five months for men
- Only Iceland had a smaller improvement for men and women out of 22 countries
Improvements in life expectancy in England and Wales are among the worst of all wealthy countries, research shows.
Experts believe funding cuts to NHS and social care may be fuelling the trend, as well as a rise in alcohol and drug-related deaths.
Between 2011 and 2016, life expectancy in England and Wales improved by less than five weeks for women and fewer than five months for men.
It means that the average boy lives to the age of 79, while girls tend to live until they are roughly 83.
Only two countries had a smaller improvement for men, Iceland and the US – which has seen a spike in deaths amid an opioid epidemic. Iceland was the only nation with a poorer improvement for women.
Life expectancy improvements since 2011 in England and Wales have stalled worse than the majority of other high-income countries. Here, the worst 10 for men (blue) and women (pink) are shown
The results reveal the current slowdown in England and Wales is the worst seen in 45 years.
The findings were revealed in the first international study to compare life expectancy and mortality rates from 1970 to 2016 across 22 wealthy countries.
These also included Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and countries in western Europe, such as France, Italy and Switzerland.
The researchers believe the stalling life expectancy rates in England and Wales are partly due to the financial crash of 2008.
They also point to cuts in health funding and a flu epidemic which claimed the lives of almost 44,000 extra people during in 2014 and 2015.
NHS waiting lists are at an all-time high
A damning report has shown more than 4.41million patients were stuck on waiting lists in England in August – up by 250,000 from last year.
And 662,053 people have waited more than 18 weeks for routine treatments, such as joint replacements – the highest since records began.
Health leaders have condemned the figures and said they show the NHS could face its worst winter ever with Brexit, harsh weather conditions and flu on the horizon.
NHS bosses said trusts up and down the country are working ‘incredibly hard’ to prepare for the winter and make sure patients are kept safe.
But the Royal College of Nursing fears more and more patients are going to be treated in corridors as pressure gets piled on the health service.
And the Royal College of Surgeons warned the upcoming winter pressure, Brexit and the NHS pension crisis will create a ‘perfect storm’ for hospitals this winter.
Experts called for ‘swift and far-reaching’ Government action to get the NHS braced for winter.
The waiting times refer to patients who are waiting for routine but important operations such as joint replacements.
Those included in the 4.41million are the ones who have been referred for surgery by a specialist but have not yet had the procedure.
That figure is up by 250,000 from the same time last year and 1.1million from August 2017.
But the team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, dismissed claims the slowdown is solely because more elderly people are dying.
Their analysis showed death rates had risen in every age group except for young boys.
The risk of death in 25 to 50-year-old men and women is now 20 to 40 per cent higher than the average across the 22 other countries.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Public Health, says life expectancy may have been affected by a rise in deaths from injuries, poisoning and violence.
While male life expectancies have largely risen in line with other countries, women have lagged behind, being ranked 20th out of the 22 countries in 2016.
That is likely to be because British women started smoking earlier in the 20th century than those in other countries, and became heavier smokers.
Life expectancy may also have been affected by the north-south divide in England, which means younger adults further up the country are more likely to die from alcohol and drug abuse.
The study concludes that the rise in deaths among working-age people, which began in the mid-2000s, needs ‘urgent attention’.
Lead author Professor David Leon from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: ‘The failure of England and Wales to keep up with improvements seen in other high-income countries is likely to reflect a variety of factors.
‘We did not look at these in the study, but they could potentially include reduced funding for the NHS and social services and deprivation.
‘It is possible that stalled life expectancy is related to a rise in death rates among young people linked to drug and alcohol abuse and violence.’
He added: ‘These trends represent a real reversal of the situation in England and Wales in the 1970s and 1980s, when this working-age group had lower mortality than seen elsewhere, almost certainly in part because in this period the UK as a whole had notably low mortality from external causes such as injuries, poisonings and violence.
‘Further work is urgently required to understand what the reasons are for this reversal since 2000, and how far it may be due to adverse trends in injuries, violence and alcohol or drug-related deaths.’
Professor Leon added: ‘Today the world is facing major challenges, from climate change to the disruption of long-established aspects of international collaboration and cooperation, many of which may have a negative impact on future health progress.’
HOW LIFE EXPECTANCY HAS IMPROVED FOR MEN SINCE 2011 (IN YEARS)
HOW LIFE EXPECTANCY HAS IMPROVED FOR WOMEN SINCE 2011 (IN YEARS)
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