In 1921 men in England and Wales had a life expectancy of 56 years,women 60 years. Ninety years on the figures are 79 and 83 years respectively. Simply living longer is a bit meaningless in itself, but it is a pointer to better health. The Western world has shared in this greater longevity, thank to national health systems.
But things are changing. In the borough we stay in in London life expectancy in the poor north of the borough (where the disastrous fire was a year ago) life expectancy is 14 years less than parts of the borough just walking distance away. The people burned to death last year’s fire were minorities or migrants.
Instead of a steady improvement in life expectancy of 0.25 years every year, the rate has recently declined to 0.07 per year for men and 0.02 for women. This change is 80% down on that of the last 90 years. In continental Europe lengthening lives are still on track , but in the UK are they stalling and in America nationwide life expectancy has declined two years in a row, with those with poor education doing worst.
The pattern seems to be pretty obvious: the lower the position on the social hierarchy, the worse the health. We know that inequality is having bad effects in America, but what is worrying is that Britain’ changes are regional – the south east is doing well but the North is suffering. The greater the economic distress and unemployment (or casual employment and short- term contracts). the higher the mortality, with alcohol being an important factor. Infant mortality has risen two years in a row.
One reason given is the funding of the National Health Service, an increase in the number of old people and a decline in the increase in spending by the Tory government . Expenditure , once reliably 4% annually , has dropped to 0.3%, and going down. Along with this there has been a drop in spending on social care of 25%.
Meanwhile, back to the borough I am living in. Also within walking distance there are 6 Russian oligarchs and a host of kleptocrats and crooks with London boltholes, some lured with a promise of British passports, few of them, I imagine, paying any tax. Those of us with an Epicurean outlook have to reject this way of running a society. It is stupid,