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Austerity blamed for ‘flatlining’ life expectancy and worsening health inequalities over past decade

Austerity blamed for ‘flatlining’ life expectancy and worsening health inequalities over past decade
3 min read

Government spending cuts has been blamed for “flatlining" life expectancy and worsening health inequalities over the past decade.

A landmark study said the impact of austerity was to blame for a "lost" decade in England.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, who wrote the report, said the rise in life expectancy had "slowed dramatically" since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power.

His new report, 'Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On', found life expectancy in men had risen by about half a year from 79.01 in 2010-12 to 79.56 in 2016-18.

In women, it rose by just a third of a year from 82.83 to 83.18 during the same period.

Prof Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, said this compared to life expectancy generally improving by about one year every four years for a century up until 2010.

He said: “This damage to the nation’s health need not have happened. It is shocking.

“The UK has been seen as a world leader in identifying and addressing health inequalities but something dramatic is happening.

“This report is concerned with England, but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the damage to health and wellbeing is similarly unprecedented.

“Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health, and it is likely to continue to do so. If you ask me if that is the reason for the worsening health picture, I’d say it is highly likely that is responsible for the life expectancy flat-lining, people’s health deteriorating and the widening of health inequalities.”

In a foreword to the report he writes: “From rising child poverty and the closure of children’s centres, to declines in education funding, an increase in precarious work and zero hours contracts, to a housing affordability crisis and a rise in homelessness, to people with insufficient money to lead a healthy life and resorting to food banks in large numbers, to ignored communities with poor conditions and little reason for hope… austerity will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: "This is a devastating verdict on 10 years of austerity under the Conservatives, and demands urgent action from Boris Johnson.

"There is no greater social injustice than people dying sooner because of poverty and austerity."

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I thank Professor Sir Michael Marmot for his dedicated work to shine a light on this vital issue.

“His findings show just how important this agenda is, and renew my determination to level up health life expectancy across our country.

“After all, levelling up health is the most important levelling up of all.

“There is still much more to do, and our bold prevention agenda, record £33.9billion 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.”

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