Short Cuts – future life expectancy in the UK

Short Cuts – future life expectancy in the UK

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, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Men do little better.

In almost every other affluent country, apart from the US, people live longer than in the UK, often several years longer and the best countries are pulling away.

Between 2011 and 2015 life expectancy rose by a year in both Norway and Finland. It rose by more than a year in Japan, despite the Japanese already having the highest life expectancy in the world.It hardly rose at all in the UK. Why?

In the UK official projections have now been altered because of the tens of thousands of people who have died earlier than expected. If you subtract the latest ONS figures from the figures published two years ago, you can see that a further one million earlier deaths are now projected in the next forty years (the ONS itself doesn’t publish this number – it is shown in the table below).

Extra deaths now projected to occur every year in the UK from 2016 to 2058, by ONS
2016-based projection as compared to the 2014-based projection

— Extra — Cumulative — Time Period
—- Deaths —- Total

39,307 — 39,307 — 2016 – 2017
25,668 — 64,975 — 2017 – 2018
27,246 — 92,221 — 2018 – 2019
28,521 — 120,742 — 2019 – 2020
29,581 — 150,323 — 2020 – 2021
307,031 — 457,354 — 2021-2030 (ten years)
246,302 — 703,656 — 2031-2040 (ten tears)
178,483 — 882,139 — 2041-2050 (ten years)
17,310 — 882,139 — 2050 – 2051
17,463 — 899,602 — 2051 – 2052
17,582 — 917,184 — 2052 – 2053
17,650 — 934,834 — 2053 – 2054
17,600 — 952,434 — 2054 – 2055
17,404 — 969,838 — 2055 – 2056
17,050 — 986,888 — 2056 – 2057
16,524 — 1,003,412 — 2057 – 2058

Source – calculated directly from ONS tables of expected deaths by age and year

What has happened is no longer being treated as a temporary decline; it is the new norm. On 26 October 2017 the Office for National Statistics announced that it estimates that, by 2041, life expectancy for women will be 86.2 years and for men 83.4. Both figures are almost a whole year lower than last projected, then based on 2014 data.

In future people living in the UK are no longer projected to live as long as we thought would be the case just a few years ago. Tens of thousands more people have died earlier recently than were expected to die and this has lead to the national population projections being revised downwards.

The most plausible explanation would blame the politics of austerity, which has had an excessive impact on the poor and the elderly; the withdrawal of care support to half a million elderly people that had taken place by 2013; the effect of a million fewer social care visits being carried out every year; the cuts to NHS budgets and its reorganisation as a result of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act; increased rates of bankruptcy and general decline in the quality of care homes; the rise in fuel poverty among the old; cuts to or removal of disability benefits. The stalling of life expectancy was the result of political choice.

But the decline can be prevented from continuing for the next forty years. It does not have to continue as currently projected. Given that it is now clear that the cause was not some outside event, such as an influenza epidemic, we should ask why government continues to chose to ignore this worsening trend? Why is it of not interest to them?

Read more in the Lonodn Review of Books, and a fully referenced version of that article here