Life Expectancy

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mendelsohn Lord Mendelsohn Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of why the UK had one of the largest slowdowns in improvements in life expectancy between 2011 and 2016 out of the 19 countries analysed by the Office for National Statistics in August 2018.

Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Life expectancy is as high as it has ever been in this country, but the rate of increase in life expectancy has slowed down in recent years. To better understand the reasons for the slowdown, the Department commissioned Public Health England to publish A review of recent trends in mortality in England, which includes comparison to other parts of the United Kingdom, the European Union and United States of America. A copy of the review is attached.

The overall slowdown in improvements is due to a range of factors operating simultaneously across a wide range of age groups, places, and causes of death. Issues include:

- the slowdown in improvement in mortality from heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death. This is partly influenced by the increasing prevalence of diabetes, obesity, and low physical activity;

- the size and frequency of recent winter peaks in mortality, which were influenced by the intensity and dominant type of influenza circulating, flu vaccine uptake and effectiveness, and is sometimes exacerbated by cold weather, especially among the very elderly people living with conditions such as dementia. Housing and fuel poverty are key to cold weather vulnerability;

- in younger adults, the cause of death that had the biggest impact was accidental poisoning, a large proportion of these deaths are due to drug misuse; and

- small increases in mortality rates from chronic lower respiratory disease in males and females, and other causes in males (including cirrhosis and other liver diseases).

The Government remains committed to giving people five extra years of healthy, independent life by 2035 and to ensuring that everyone gets the same great healthcare no matter where they live, backed by our Long Term Plan for the National Health Service.

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