De­men­tia puts a stop to ris­ing life ex­pectancy

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Sarah Knap­ton Science editor

THE steady rise in life ex­pectancy has stalled in Britain for the first time in 100 years, with de­men­tia and life­style dis­eases largely to blame, a re­port has warned.

Since the First World War, the av­er­age age of death has been in­creas­ing grad­u­ally and un­til re­cently men were gain­ing an ex­tra year ev­ery three and a half, and women ev­ery five. But since 2010 the trend has halved with a one-year in­crease now tak­ing 10 years for women and six years for men.

Sir Michael Mar­mot, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Health Eq­uity at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, who com­piled the re­port, said the down­turn was “deeply con­cern­ing” and warned that the coun­try could soon reach a point at which life ex­pectancy started to go back­wards, as has hap­pened in the US.

Sir Michael, who pre­vi­ously chaired a gov­ern­ment­com­mis­sioned re­view into health in­equal­i­ties, said life ex­pectancy gains for Bri­tons had “pretty much ground to a halt”.

“I am deeply con­cerned with the lev­el­ling off, I ex­pected it to just keep get­ting bet­ter,” he said. “I would say it is a mat­ter of ur­gency to try and ex­am­ine why this has hap­pened – it is not in­evitable that it should have lev­elled off. It’s been pretty good for 100 years.”

Life ex­pectancy in Britain to­day is 79 for men, and 82 for women but in coun­tries such as Hong Kong, it has con­tin­ued to rise, with the av­er­age man liv­ing un­til 85.

“We could get to that Hong Kong fig­ure,” said Sir Michael. “So it’s deeply trou­bling that we ap­pear to have stalled. If you look at how things are go­ing we could get to a stage where life ex­pectancy starts to de­cline.”

In 2010, the con­tin­ual in­crease in life ex­pectancy meant that each day, on av­er­age each Bri­ton added eight hours to their life­span. But that has now fallen to four hours, and is ex­pected to de­cline fur­ther.

The re­port warned that de­men­tia played an “im­por­tant part” in the stag­na­tion be­cause of a “sud­den and sus­tained” in­crease in older deaths. De­men­tia is now the most com­mon cause of death for women over 80 and men aged over 85.

Be­tween 2002 and 2015 there was a 175 per cent in­crease in de­men­tia in women and 250 per cent in men. Re­cent fig­ures sug­gest that there will be 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with the dis­ease in 2040 com­pared with 800,000 to­day.

The huge rise in de­men­tia cases had placed health and so­cial ser­vices “un­der con­sid­er­able strain” and keep­ing fund­ing at present lev­els was “not a suf­fi­cient re­sponse”, the re­port said.

Sir Michael said the prob­lem had been made worse by fall­ing wages, grow­ing so­cial in­equal­ity and aus­ter­ity mea­sures. Be­tween 2009-10 and 2015-16 spend­ing on adult so­cial care went down by 6.4 per cent. Al­though Sir Michael said there was no proof that cuts were killing peo­ple, he be­lieved “it was pos­si­ble”.

“Hav­ing more peo­ple with de­men­tia will put a big strain on so­cial and health­care and that will re­quire an in­crease in health and care spend­ing and that’s not hap­pen­ing.”

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