Linking mortality to the past – solving the geographical problems

Linking mortality to the past – solving the geographical problems

Audio recording of the Keynote Lecture given by Danny Dorling at the annual British Society for Population Studies conference, Winchester, September 12th 2018

The lecture is illustrated, parts are largely speculative, but they can be understood without the slides. It includes speculation over what we might expect in future over trends in infant and neonatal mortality, especially given possible effects of the restriction to the movement to the UK of midwives and others who help maintain the social reproduction of society. I am hopeful that there might be someone in the audience, possibly now in the mid-twenties, who might think these questions are worth looking into in greater depth and better than I am able to.

Changes in life expectancy in men in the six years up to 2016 compared to the six years before, first published by ONS in August 2018

The graph above shows the UK experiencing the slowest rise in life expectancy when averaged over the period 2010 to 2016. Since 2014 life expectancy in the UK has been falling for both men and women. Given the large rise in deaths in 2018 we should expect 2018 to be the worse post-2014 year yet when life expectancy for that year is eventually reported.

In 1994, as an overconfident postgraduate researcher, roughly half the age I am now, I gave a talk with this arrogant title at the annual BSPS conference in Durham. I thought it was then possible to explain the UK north/south divide in mortality by looking at lifetime migration patterns. In short, people in the South of England lived longer because those that did not were more likely to migrate to the North before they died, and the South attracted more healthier migrants than the North did.Today health officials tell us our woes are largely due to influenza.But influenza epidemics take this form:

Typical length of time and severity of influenza epidemics in England, 1960-2000


In this talk I expand on earlier ideas to consider the importance of migration from and to the European mainland for trends in mortality within the UK. To what extent have mortality rates in the South of England been kept low because of the arrivals of so many young Europeans from the mainland, mostly in much better health than the incumbents, and how has the outflow of more elderly people from the South of England, especially to the European mainland for retirement, contributed to the relatively good health of Southern England?


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


Finally, how much worse would the current health crisis in infant mortality and all age mortality (shown above) have been were it not for the migration of health young people from the European mainland in such large numbers in recent years? Can the fast rise in UK life expectancy for men and women from 2004 to 2010 be partly, if not largely, attributed to that in-migration? To what extent has the rise in mortality since 2010 been caused not just by austerity, but by the rising hostile environment to in-migrants who not only helped staff our health and social care services so well, but who were also more often less ill themselves?