Life expectancy for some of the poorest women in the UK has decreased amid widening inequality in England.
Those in the poorest areas have seen less improvement in life expectancy than those in the wealthiest, according to a new Public Health England (PHE) report, while the most deprived women have seen their life expectancy actually decrease.
Between 2014 and 2016, the life expectancy gap was 9.3 years between the most affluent and most deprived men while it was 7.3 years for women.
A similar slowdown in improvements has been seen in other large European countries; however our report has shown England continues to lag behind, particularly for the life expectancy of women. Read our new blog for more: https://t.co/H1qNA3MCSa pic.twitter.com/AqCfcafkDQ
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) December 11, 2018
Life expectancy rises on the whole has slowed since peaking in 2011. Between 2011 and 2016, increases for men and women were at 0.4 and 0.1 years respectively, down from 1.6 and 1.3 in the previous five years.
PHE has targeted preventable illnesses as the main reason behind the slowdown. And they have put out a call to action to address smoking, obesity and high blood pressure to slash the number of people suffering from premature heart attacks and strokes – 80 per cent of which are considered avoidable.
However, mortality rates from dementia have increased – potentially due to changes in diagnosis – making it the leading cause of death for women and it is set to take the spot for men too, on course to overtake heart disease. Winter flu deaths also rose.
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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.”
Public Health England are not the only ones to issue a call to action to tackle preventable diseases – Big Issue founder John Bird made a similar call to help reduce the strain on the NHS with his pledge earlier this year.
King’s Fund senior fellow Dr Veena Raleigh has also called for preventative action after revealing that the life expectancy slowdown only bettered the United States when put head-to-head with 20 comparable countries.
“It is particularly worrying that life expectancy is falling in more deprived parts of the country, further widening health inequalities between rich and poor areas,” said Dr Raleigh. “It is also very troubling that deaths from causes such as suicide and drug overdoses are rising among young adults.
“After several years of debate, we now have some clear pointers about what is causing life expectancy in England to stall. While further research must continue at pace, action to reverse these worrying trends is urgently needed to avoid the United Kingdom sliding further down international league tables.”