Age UK has urged for a debate into how we fund health and care after it was announced that England's average life expectancy rates are slowing dramatically.
Improvements in England’s life expectancy have been slowing for years and are on the verge of stopping completely. It is thought that the threat posed by dementia is likely to have contributed to this. Austerity and spending cuts could also have affected the health of our older population, which Age UK has said must be addressed urgently.
University College London expert Sir Michael Marmot has conducted a review into life expectancy, which has been increasing at a continued rate since the 1920s and 30s, in line with improvements to our quality of life.
From 2000-2009, men saw a one year increase in their life expectancy every three and a half years and this was every five years for women. However, the rate of increase has slowed dramatically since 2009, to the extent that it might no longer continue to rise at all. Marmot said this goes against the continued increase which he had anticipated, leaving him ‘deeply concerned’.
Marmot’s review showed that since 2009, for every ten years:
- For men: Life expectancy will increase by one year every six years
- For women: Life expectancy will increase by one year every ten years
Marmot's findings show that the threat of dementia is ‘loud and clear’, according to Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams. Since 2002, the rate of people over 85 who are diagnosed with dementia has been rising – by a huge 250% for men and 175% for women. It is now the leading cause of death among women over 80 and men over 85.
This is partially due to the fact that doctors can now certify it as an official cause of death as opposed to only a contributing factor.
As well as dementia, austerity may also be to blame for this. UK Austerity measures following the 'credit crunch' have resulted in cuts to education, employment and NHS health and social care. If these services have not been able to deliver as much for our population, they could be influencing the quality of health care older people receive.
People who are poorer are particularly vulnerable to the current expectancy trend – wealthy people in Kensington and Chelsea’s life expectancy is much higher than that of those in areas of Blackpool.
With the link between healthcare spending and how long we live for very clear, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said that there is a legitimate debate to be had about how to fund more spending on health and care.
’The need for it is undeniable and for the sake of our older population especially, Government must act.’