Women In The Poorest Areas Of England Now Have Lower Life Expectancies Compared To Ten Years Ago

'Austerity will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects,' the report warned.

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by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

A follow-up report on the growing gap between the rich and poor has found that life expectancy among women in the poorest areas of England has declined since 2011. More than that, overall life expectancy growth has stalled over the last decade for the first time in a century.

Professor Michael Marmot, one of England’s leading experts on health inequalities, published the report this morning 10 years after his first. Warning that ‘England has lost a decade’, he said the results – which come after a decade of austerity - are ‘shocking’.

‘England is faltering,’ Marmot wrote in the report. ‘In the United Kingdom, as in other countries, we are used to life expectancy and health improving year on year. It is what we have come to expect. The UK has been seen as a world leader in identifying and addressing health inequalities but something dramatic is happening.

‘Put simply, if health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped,’ he added.

According to his findings, England experienced continuous improvements in life expectancy from the beginning of the 20th century. But, from 2011 such improvements slowed dramatically, ‘almost grinding to a halt’, Marmot says.

‘For part of the decade 2010-2020 life expectancy actually fell in the most deprived communities outside London for women and in some regions for men. For men and women everywhere the time spent in poor health is increasing. This is shocking.’

More than that, among women in the poorest 10% of areas, life expectancy fell between 2010-12 and 2016-18. The research shows that cuts in funding in deprived areas and areas outside London were larger and affected those areas more.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has since put out a statement responding to the report. ‘There is still much more to do, and our bold prevention agenda, record £33.9bn a year investment in the NHS, and world-leading plans to improve children's health will help ensure every person can lead a long and healthy life,’ he said.

If health has stopped improving, it is a sign that society has stopped

However, Marmot has argued in his report that deteriorating health cannot just be put down to problems with the NHS or social care – nor can it be blamed on very cold winters or flu.

‘Evidence from around the world shows that health is a good measure of social and economic progress,’ he says. ‘When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish. When a society has large social and economic inequalities there are large inequalities in health. The health of the population is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions, important as that is: health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of health.’

Pointing to austerity policies, Marmot explained that rising child poverty, declines in education funding, an increase in precarious work and zero hours contracts, a housing affordability crisis and a rise in homelessness have all contributed.

‘We cannot say with certainty which of these adverse trends might be responsible for the worsening health picture in England,’ he concluded. ‘We can say, though, that austerity has adversely affected the social determinants that impact on health in the short, medium and long term. Austerity will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects.

‘The damage to the nation’s health need not have happened.’

Read More:

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