After the Fall [in Life Expectancy]

After the Fall [in Life Expectancy]

‘And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light’
(Dylan Thomas, 1947)

Brian Ridsdale suggests that life expectancy in the UK isn’t declining so much as increasing at a slower rate (LRB Letters, 30 August 2018 ).

On 7 August the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a comparison of mortality trends in twenty countries.

It revealed that life expectancy in the UK peaked in 2014 at 82.99 years for women and 79.25 years for men.

Both figures fell in 2015 and dropped lower still [than 2014] in 2016.

Figures for 2017 are not yet available.

The ONS report also showed that the UK and US had the worst recent record of all twenty countries.

Life expectancy is still rising in the other 18 countries that have released data for 2016.

It has been rising most steeply in Finland, Norway and Denmark for men, and in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Japan for women.


Danny Dorling


Letter, first published in the London Review of Books, September 13th 2018 – available on line and as PDF.

For more details of the rise in mortality and the inquiries that are beginning click here.


Note: shows proportion of people dying each year in England at quarter 1 rates