Increases in the life expectancy of Britons have come to an end but analysts can’t explain why a century of ever-longer lifespans has almost halted in the past eight years
- Improvements in life expectancy in the UK have almost come to a halt since 2010
- Lifespans have lengthened thanks to medical advances and economic changes
- Analysts rejected the suggestion that government cuts could be responsible
The lifespans of men and women in Britain have stopped lengthening, a report revealed yesterday.
It found that after a century of routinely increasing life expectancy, improvements have almost halted since 2010.
The report from the Office for National Statistics confirmed widespread suspicions of a halt to expanding life expectancy.
But analysts said they could not point to the reasons why a century of ever-longer lives appears to have come to an end.
The lifespans of men and women in Britain have stopped lengthening, a report revealed yesterday, after a century of routinely increasing life expectancy
Since the end of the First World War, life expectancy has been constantly improving thanks to medical advances, the near elimination of once-deadly diseases such as tuberculosis and scarlet fever, and economic and lifestyle changes.
These have meant far fewer men work in dangerous heavy industry such as coal mining, and smoking is a much rarer habit.
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But since 2010, the ONS said, the speed of improvement in life expectancy has dropped by 85 per cent among men in England and 95 per cent among women.
It said that between 1990 and 2011, the number of deaths among every 100,000 men dropped by 8.6 for each two-year period. But between 2011 and 2017, each two-year period showed a drop of only 1.3 deaths for every 100,000. Among women, there were 4.3 fewer deaths for every 100,000 people each two years between 1990 and 2011. But after 2011 improvements ceased almost entirely, with a fall of just 0.2 per 100,000 for each two-year period.
Winter deaths at five-year high
This year’s winter months death toll was the highest for five years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
There were 153,717 deaths registered in England between January and March – the highest figure over the same three months for five years.
This compares with 132,409 deaths in the same period in 2013; 123,068 in 2014; 145,570 in 2015; 132,728 in 2016 and 144,087 in 2017. Almost every day over the 2018 period saw more deaths recorded than the average over five years.
One reason could be a mix of flu and the very cold weather of February and March, officials suggested.
The freezing weather was worst in the last week of February and the start of March. ONS data shows that the deaths began to climb well above the five-year average during this cold spell.
After 2011 only 17 local council areas recorded life expectancy improvements for women, and just 26 for men, the ONS reported.
Its analysts said: ‘Some researchers have pointed to the presence of more virulent strains of influenza affecting the more vulnerable older populations. However, this is contested as a long-term effect as varying predominant strains of influenza will only explain short-term fluctuations in mortality rates.’
The ONS also rejected the idea that austerity – state spending cutbacks – could be to blame.
A further possibility, the report said, was that the growing numbers of older people in the population may be having an impact.
Other suggested explanations have included a slowing in the rate of medical advances.
And while men have been working in less dangerous jobs, women have been moving into high-pressured work in historic numbers.
The ONS said yesterday: ‘A statistically significant slowdown in the long-term improvement in age-standardised mortality rates for England and Wales took place around the early 2010s.
‘This was true for England and Wales, for both sexes, and for older and younger people.’
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