Stalling of mortality in the United Kingdom and Europe: an analytical review of the evidence

November 2019

Stalling of mortality in the UK

Improvement in UK mortality rates has declined substantially in this decade and the overall value is now close to zero, a finding which has become politically controversial. A similar but less severe change has been observed in some neighbouring European countries, and the US has exhibited a longer term deterioration in mortality improvement. This has led to calls for enquiries about these trends and possible factors underlying these findings. Before detailing the most salient aspects characterising these trends, the main question that has to be addressed concerns the importance of the phenomenon and whether it represents a “real” problem for population health in the UK.

This report thus focuses on unpacking discourses around these changes – detailing the influence of both long-term evolutions and short-term fluctuations on mortality in the UK – to systematically identify their magnitude and potential explanatory factors as far as possible with existing data.

The authors review the literature and associated commentary on this phenomenon. These UK trends are observed across sex and age groups, but appear to be more marked in more deprived areas. They assess the hypotheses that have been put forward to explain these trends within a framework that distinguishes between short-term fluctuations and longer-term underlying trends; in particular, the role of seasonal influenza, changes in cardio-vascular disease mortality, Government austerity measures and tempo effects.

Report downloads:

Click here to download the research report written by Michael Murphy, Marc Luy and Orsola Torrisi (Department of Social Policy, LSE)

Click here to download the report written by The Health Foundation, based on the research of Michael Murphy, Marc Luy and Orsola Torrisi

Read also:

Click here to read the press release

Media coverage

National Health Executive - "Drop in life expectancy thanks to social inequality according to The Health Foundation"
14 November 2019

The Independent - "Life expectancy in UK falls amid rise in avoidable deaths in disadvantaged communities, report shows"
14 November 2019

Sputnik News - "UK Life Expectancy in Free-Fall and Avoidable Deaths Rising Due to 'Widening Social Inequality'"
14 November 2019

Client: The Health Foundation

Authors: Michael Murphy, Marc Luy and Orsola Torrisi

Download research report