The Institute for Health Equity looks at key indicators in life expectancy, inequality and health

policy digest

25 / 07 / 2017

Marmot Indicators Briefing
Institute of Health Equity, July 2017

Professor Sir Michael Marmot and his team of researchers at the Institute of Health Equity within UCL have examined a range of indicators in a new briefing. The findings in relation to life expectancy commanded much of the coverage, but this summary will examine a wider range of the statistics.

Life expectancy and inequalities

  • Life expectancy growth in England has declined sharply for both men and women since 2010. Prior to that date, a year was being added to life expectancy every 3.5 years for men and five years for women, but subsequently those figures have been six and 10 respectively.
  • There have been similar trends observed for life expectancies at age 65, with male rates now taking nine years to increase by one year compared to five and 16 years for women compared to six.
  • The briefing highlights “a sudden and sustained increase in numbers of people” aged 75 and above, with three-quarters of female deaths and three-fifths of male deaths taking place among this age group. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the most common cause of death for men aged 85+ and women aged 80+. 
  • Inequities in life expectancy between local authority areas “have persisted”, with the gap currently nine years for men and seven years for women. The briefing also notes the life expectancy gaps within local authorities, which are as high as 14-15 years for men in Blackpool, Stockton-on-Tees and Kensington & Chelsea. It is highlighted that “the lower the level of life expectancy for the local authority, the steeper the inequality gradient within an authority.”

Social determinants of health

  • Almost 70 per cent of children at age five had “reached a good level of development” in 2015/16, compared to only half just three years earlier. However the gap between the proportion attaining this development level and the percentage eligible for free school meals (as it was before the criteria changed) has remained stubbornly high (14.9 percentage points in 2015/16, compared to 15.5 in 2012/13).
  • The London region was found to have made the largest strides in alleviating the attainment gap at GCSE level between all children and those eligible for free school meals, which prompts the researchers to warn against the planned alterations to school spending in the period to 2020, which leaves the capital as “the largest loser.”
  • “Significant increases” are highlighted in the number of people living in households deemed to be “below minimum income standard”, rising from 15 million in 2008/09 to 19 million by 2014/15.
  • 18 per cent report using “green space for exercise/health reasons”, but it is noted that the “social gradient remains” in place for this measure as well.
  • Around 4.5 per cent report “low life satisfaction” as of 2014/15, but the proportion was found to be higher in more deprived areas.

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