AFTER MORE than 100 years of advances, life expectancy in Britain has all but stopped rising, a leading professor of public health told Reuters on Tuesday.
Until 2010, life expectancy at birth was rising by one year every five years for women, and by one year every three and a half years for men.
But since 2010, the average rate of increase has halved and in 2013-15 it was near zero, a report by the Institute of Health Equity found.
Its author, Michael Marmot, professor of public health at University College London, said the findings were historically unusual, and worrying.
‘What we had expected over time – this relentless increase in life expectancy, (and) improvement in health – has stalled,’ he told BBC radio.
The average life expectancy for men born in 2010 was 78.7 years, rising to 79.6 years by 2015, whilst female life expectancy increased from 82.6 to 83.1 years over the same period.
Life expectancy has grown decade-on-decade since 1890, although there have been occasional annual drops, notably in the First and Second World Wars.
Marmot did not establish a direct cause for the levelling-off, but said it was ‘entirely possible’ that there was a link with austerity policies that have seen per capita healthcare spending fall in real terms since 2010, along with a rise in dementia cases.
He suggested that an annual 1.1 percent increase for spending on the National Health Service was not enough to cope with the demands posed by an ageing population, amongst whom rates of dementia have been increasing since 2002.
Dementia is now the most common cause of death in women aged 80 and over and in men aged 85 and over.
‘If you compare our NHS spending with other European countries, miserly is not a bad description of it. And it will damage the quality of life particularly for older people with dementia and other social care needs,’ Marmot said.