British life expectancy is slipping down the global ranks, according to a new analysis, with the country performing the worst of all the G7 nations except the US.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 70 years ago, the UK was seventh in the world for life expectancy, ranking behind Scandinavian nations such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
But by 2021 the country had fallen to 29th in the world, according to the report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
The researchers examined global figures between 1952 and 2021 and found that over the seven decades the UK has seen an increase in life expectancy, but it has risen slower than any other members of the G7 barring America.
The report said the decline had been long drawn out over decades, but events such as the rise in income inequalities in the UK during and after the 1980s had definitely contributed to it.
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Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “That rise also saw an increase in the variation in life expectancy between different social groups.
“One reason why the overall increase in life expectancy has been so sluggish in the UK is that in recent years it has fallen for poorer groups.”
Dr Lucinda Hiam, of the University of Oxford, said: “The rankings show that the only G7 country to do worse than the UK is the USA.”
Dr Hiam said that such things as the cost of living crisis could also have an effect.
“In the short term, the government has an acute crisis to address.
“However, a relative worsening of population health is evidence that all is not well. It has historically been an early sign of severe political and economic problems.
“This new analysis suggests that the problems the UK faces are deep-seated and raises serious questions about the path that this country is following”.
In 2021, Public Health England announced that life expectancy in England had fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade, partly as a result of the COVID pandemic.
Male life expectancy in 2020 fell to 78.7 years and 82.7 years for females – the lowest for both genders since 2011.