Between 1990 and 2013, life expectancy in England increased by 5.4 years: one of the biggest increases compared with the other EU15+ countries (from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013).
This increase was mainly because of falls in the death rate from cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some cancers (with progress partly offset by increased death rates from liver disease). South East England has the lowest disease burden when compared to high-income countries, and England as a whole performs better than the EU15+ average.
Known potentially preventable risk factors taken together explain 40% of ill health in England with unhealthy diet and tobacco having the greatest impact on the overall disease burden, (diet accounts for 10.8% of total disease burden and tobacco 10.7%).
Improvements in life expectancy haven’t been matched by improvements in levels of ill-health. So, as a population we’re living longer but spending more years in ill-health, often with a combination of conditions, some of which would have previously been fatal. For example, with diabetes, the years of life lost to the disease have decreased by 56% but years living with disability have increased by over 75%.
Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer, Public Health England, said: "The findings show the huge opportunity for preventive public health. If levels of health in the worst performing regions in England matched the best performing ones, England would have one of the lowest burdens of disease of any developed country. And even though there have been big falls in premature mortality, the top causes of early deaths in England and in each English region are still heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which to a greater or lesser extent, are attributable to preventable risk factors."
Dr Adam Briggs, co-author and Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow, University of Oxford, said: "Life expectancy is increasing across the country but large inequalities still remain. Life expectancy in 2013 for those living in the most deprived areas was still lower than those in less deprived areas enjoyed in 1990. How deprived you are is the key driver of these differences rather than where you live and therefore deprivation and its causes need to be tackled wherever they occur."