William Eichler 12 December 2018

Preventable illness factor in life expectancy slow-down

Preventable illnesses are one of several factors behind the slowing improvements in life expectancy in England, the national health body warns.

A review of mortality trends in England published by Public Health England has revealed that long-term improvements in life expectancy have slowed since 2011.

Between 2006 and 2011, life expectancy increased by 1.6 years in males and 1.3 years in females, but between 2011 and 2016 the increase was only 0.4 and 0.1 years for males and females respectively.

Currently, life expectancy in England has reached 79.6 years for men and 83.2 for women.

Those in the poorest areas have seen less improvement in life expectancy than those in the wealthiest, with the life expectancy of poor women actually decreasing.

A slowdown in improvement in mortality from heart disease, stroke, and dementia has had a significant impact on these trends.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: ‘With the number of people aged 85 years and over set to increase, we’re likely to see the burden of dementia and many other long-term conditions follow suit.

‘The solution to reversing these trends will be complex as the causes themselves are not straightforward.

‘What comes out loud and clear from the evidence is the potential for effective prevention activity, particularly for heart disease, to improve health outcomes and reduce the enormous disparities in life expectancy.’

Funding for public health services have been dramatically cut since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

A recent briefing paper from the Health Foundation shows that councils have seen a £700m real terms reduction in public health funding between 2014/15 and 2019/20.

The Foundation estimates that over £3bn a year is needed to reverse the impact of these cuts.

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