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Why is Life Expectancy Growth Slowing Down?

Aug 21 2017 Comments 0

Compare today’s life expectancy averages with those recorded a century ago and there’s a significant increase. But according to University College London expert Sir Michael Marmot, rising rates of life expectancy are about to come to a grinding halt. After more than 100 years of continuous progress, the leading health expert has stressed that he’s "deeply concerned" by the situation and has labelled it as "highly unusual" from a historical perspective.

Life expectancy falls by 50%

Drawing on Office for National Statistics projections for babies born since 2000, Marmot discovered that England’s rate of increase in life expectancy had fallen by 50% since 2010. Specifically, he found that between 2000 and 2015 life expectancy at birth increased by one year every 3.5 years for men and one year every five years for women. However post-2010 he found that life expectancy rates increased just one year every six years for men and one year every 10 years for women.

According to Marmot, when compared to the rising life expectancy rates seen over the past 100 years this confirms that the growth is "pretty close to having ground to a halt."

"I am deeply concerned with the levelling off, I expected it to keep getting better," he says.

Could austerity be dragging the UK down?

While it’s hard to draw well-founded conclusions about the cause, Marmot has stressed that austerity could be playing a role. From education and employment to working conditions and poverty, he stresses that social factors can have a marked effect on life expectancy.

Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes was quick to support Marmot, commenting that austerity is a rising concern.

"Too often we hear the consequences of inadequate, underfunded care,” he comments. “Our investigation last year revealed people with dementia left in soiled sheets, becoming ill after eating out of date food, and ending up in costly hospital or care home admissions unnecessarily.”

He didn’t hold back on pointing the finger, maintaining that "the government has to act before the care system collapses entirely."

Pushing the limits

Of course, there is the argument that the human race has simply reached the outer limits of life expectancy. Thanks to modern medicine and contemporary luxuries it’s easier than ever to live past the age of 90. Just last year US scientists concluded that the absolute limit for the human body was around 115, which could explain why life expectancy rates are starting to slow down.

That said, following the catastrophic Grenfell Tower blaze England’s social gap was pushed into the spotlight. Residents in the London neighbourhoods of Kensington and Chelsea live 16 years longer than their poverty laden class counterparts, and there’s no escaping the fact that wealth is a major contributor.

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