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Life expectancy growth is far slower in the UK compared to other developed nations, researchers have found. The country is now 36th among advanced global economies and second to last within the G7. Only the US is ranked lower within the organisation, revealing a staggering fall from grace for the UK, as Britons were once some of the longest-living people in the world.
Academics from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) ranked nations on life expectancy after combing through decades of records.
They examined global average rates from 1952 to 2021 with a specific focus on the G7 – the seven nations with the highest economic output.
They include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, countries that, together, accounted for more than half of the world’s net wealth in 2020.
But despite their exceptional wealth, only one of the nations – Japan – is in the top 10 nations with the fastest-growing life expectancy.
While life expectancy has increased by approximately 15 years since 1952, the UK’s is among the slowest growing as of 2020.
Findings published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found the rate has risen to 80.43 years from 68.63 in 1950.
Despite the overall improvement, the figures mean the UK is now 36th in the United Nation’s rankings of 200 nations, 26 places below its position as 10th in 1950.
The US – where life expectancy has risen from 68.06 years in 1950 to 77.41 years in 2020 – is now 53rd.
Similar nations have seen much larger increases, with the average life expectancy in Japan now 84.69 years.
Hong Kong has the highest in the world, with an average expectancy of 85.2 years.
The other G7 nations are several places higher, with Italy 16th on the UN list, France 20th, Canada 22nd and Germany 29th.
The researchers attributed the UK’s exceptional failure as long in the making and the product of decades of economic policy.
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Martin McKee, a professor of European Public Health at the LSHTM, said income equality has meant that expectancy has fallen for poorer groups.
He said politicians have invoked “global factors” like the impact of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in their assessment of recent economic troubles.
But, in reality, he said, the UK “suffers from major structural and institutional weaknesses”.
The authors traced the growing economic chasm between richer and poorer Britons to the 1960s and 1970s and the 2010s.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Jonathan Filippon, senior lecturer in health systems at Queen Mary University of London, said the US and UK have faired poorly since the late 20th century due to “predominant ideologies”.
He said Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s liberal approaches caused “disastrous consequences to their population’s levels of equality”.
Dr Filippon added that, while markets can thrive, they can also “exacerbate inequalities”.
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