Life Expectancy Improvements are slowing down in UK and the USA – is this a new trend?

An article in the ‘New Scientist’ published in 2018 discussed the following unexpected statistical results.

It was based on data for the period from 2006 to 2016 covering about 20 countries.

The figures showed that the long term regular increase in life expectancy is flattening off in the UK and (especially) in the USA.

However in Japan, Denmark and Italy the increase is being maintained.

The causes of the deterioration in the UK and the US are uncertain.

1. Better Cardiac care? Easy to treat heart problems now already being treated? So this source of improvement is no longer there. Maybe.

2. More cases of dementia? Cases are indeed now increasing, so possibly.

3. Austerity? “Death by despair” is said to be a phenomenon observed in white, middle-aged US males. Maybe not a strong factor in the UK where cuts to social care and healthcare support have been much less than in US during the decade 2006 – 2016.

4. Drug deaths? During the decade 2006-2016 drug misuse related rose by 60% and are now the third most common cause of death in the 15-49 year olds. Could this be starting to increase mortality and thus overall life expectancy? Possibly. Keep an eye on this one.

5. A past “Lucky Cohort”? Was there a cohort born in the decade 1925-35 who were unusually hardier and who have now ceased to contribute to the statistics? Unlikely.

6. Obesity?

However, “being mildly overweight doesn’t cause a huge difference in mortality figures,” says Steve Grover of McGill University, Montreal.

Of course, we all have to die of something!

But if this trend is real, then it will have important consequences for long-range social and economic planning.