Since 2011, something unusual and, in modern British history, unprecedented has happened to life expectancy: it has flatlined.

Louise Haigh, Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield, Heeley Constituency, speaking in Westminster Hall, April 18th 2018, (Hansard Volume 639 Column 177WH):

“For the first time in well over a century, the health of the people of this nation has stopped improving. It is of course axiomatic that life expectancy cannot increase forever, and that a slowdown in growth would eventually occur, but it is the sudden and sustained rise in mortality rates that has so concerned public health professionals and should concern us as parliamentarians.

The period from July 2014 to June 2015 saw an additional 39,074 deaths in England and Wales, compared with the same period the previous year. While mortality rates fluctuate year on year, that was the largest rise for nearly 50 years, and the higher rate of mortality was maintained throughout 2016 and into 2017. Provisional figures on the number of weekly deaths indicate that winter mortality was higher than usual in early 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Those recent trends contrast starkly with the long-term decline in age-specific mortality rates throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Now, research published in The BMJ has revealed the shocking fact that 10,000 more people died in the first seven weeks of 2018 than in the same period in 2017. The study finds no external factor that might have caused the 11% rise: no unusual ​cold snap, natural disaster or flu outbreak outside normal expectations. The Office for National Statistics has gone so far as to revise down its official life expectancy projections by almost a whole year, compared with the projections of just two years ago. That means 1 million further earlier deaths are now projected over the next 40 years.

The Financial Times has reported that the deceleration of previous rises in life expectancy has cut £310 billion from future British pension fund liabilities. …

How then to explain an increase of 40,000 deaths on what was projected for this year, and an extra 25,000 deaths for next year? We can only conclude that there has been a sharp deterioration in the collective health of this country. Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, and an adviser to Public Health England, has said that the figures are a “strong and flashing” amber light … something is making the population more vulnerable to avoidable death.”

Robert Courts, Conservative Member of Parliament for Oxfordshire, Witney:
The hon. Lady will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with her. She made a number of points, but I am simply suggesting that the issue is complex. Saying simply that necessary control of public spending leads to an increase in mortality, as is being suggested, is too simplistic. … I am glad that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley has accepted that life expectancy cannot be expected to increase forever. That is of course common sense and a point that she readily accepts, but the point bears repeating and remembering.


Could 2018 be the peak of the crisis in health in the UK? or will 2019 be even worse – Life expectancy has stalled, infant mortality is rising, no other European country is as badly effected. Danny Dorling speaking at ‘Medicine Unboxed’ in Cheltenham on November 25th 2017.