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Girls & Women

Life Expectancy Falls for Poorest Women in England and Stalls for Everyone for First Time in a Century

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Austerity in the UK is widely reported to have led to increases in poverty, food bank usage, and homelessness. And according to a new report into life expectancy across deprived areas of England, it's also having a negative impact on the health of citizens. Take action here to join the fight to end extreme poverty, and improve health and wellbeing for everyone.

The life expectancy of the poorest women in England has fallen over the past decade — while the average life expectancy across England has stalled overall for the first time in a century.

The “shocking” findings come from the Marmot Review — a follow up investigation from a report first released in 2010 that emphasised the health gaps between rich and poor neighbourhoods in England, and provided a plan of action it urged the government to follow.

Now, 10 years on, the health gap has widened, according to the landmark report published by the Institute of Health Equity on Tuesday. 

Among a number of other things, the report highlighted that there is a vast difference between the life expectancies in affluent areas versus those in deprived communities. In fact, the more deprived the area, the lower the life expectancy; while people in poorer areas spend more of their lives in ill health than those in wealthier areas. 

"England has lost a decade," Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, told the BBC. "If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving."

The report made the connection between stalling life expectancies and poor health, and how funding cuts have generally been more severe in deprived areas, especially outside of London. 

The Guardian reports, for example, that public sector spending dropped from 42% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009-10 to 35% in 2018-19. 

While the report only covers England, Marmot has suggested that it applies equally to the rest of the UK too.

Read More: Poverty in Britain Is 'Systematic' With 'Tragic Consequences' — UN Expert

Ultimately, the report concludes that the spiralling lifespans and long term ill health defined by the last decade was something that was wholly preventable.

“This damage to the nation’s health need not have happened,” Marmot told the Guardian. “The UK has been seen as a world leader in identifying and addressing health inequalities but something dramatic is happening.”

“Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health, and it is likely to continue to do so,” he added. “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.”

The report highlights that the issues lie in systematic problems, citing “social and economic conditions, many of which have shown increased inequalities.” For example, it lists education, employment, and childhood development as areas that, given more funding and attention, could help improve the state of health in the UK.

It also recommends a new course of action: developing a new national strategy for reducing health inequalities and backing early intervention in child poverty — while calling for a reduction in insecure work, as well as investment into deprived areas outside of infrastructure projects like trains and bridges.

The report follows the Conservative party promising to “level up” spending on the country’s most deprived areas in their December 2019 election manifesto. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that there was "still much more to do" on the issues raised in the Marmot Review — and that “levelling up health is the most important levelling up of all.”