Ten years of Conservative austerity have seen life expectancy in the country slow to an extent not seen in a century as the government takes Britain back to Victorian levels of poverty a new report has revealed.
The Marmot Review makes for shocking reading, finding that “there has been a slowdown in life expectancy of a duration not witnessed in England for 120 years”, comparing Britain’s status to a country that has suffered profound and catastrophic political and societal shock such as the disintegration of the state. The report utilises the break-up of the Soviet Union as an example.
“The UK has been seen as a world leader in identifying and addressing health inequalities but something dramatic is happening. This report is concerned with England, but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the damage to health and wellbeing is similarly unprecedented. Put simply, if health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped improving.”Marmot Review
Health expert Sir Michael Marmot has said that life expectancy has slowed to levels not seen in a century as public health suffers “unprecedented” damage. Factors identified by Marmot include huge rises in child poverty, disproportionate and unequal cuts to essential services, growing wage gaps and closing hundreds of Surestart centres.
The report warns that the government has continually ignored previous warnings and recommendations as governmental leadership heads “in the wrong direction”, Sir Michael having originally been commissioned by Gordon Brown’s government to investigate concerns surrounding health inequality. Despite initially accepting the findings of the original 2010 report, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition eventually failed to implement reforms or take any meaningful action.
The report finds that the state of public health has widened as a whole but is particularly significant outside London, the north and midlands being hit the hardest. The gap between the North East and South East was highlighted as notable, the average household wealth now being 2.6 times higher in the South-East than the North East.
Women’s life expectancy has gone backwards everywhere outside the capital with the poorest living four months less than at the end of the last Labour government, the richest living six months longer.
“From the beginning of the 20th Century, England experienced continuous improvements in life expectancy, but from 2011 these improvements slowed dramatically, almost grinding to a halt. For part of the decade 2010-2020, life expectancy actually fell in the most deprived communities outside London for women and in some regions for men. For men and women everywhere, the time spent in poor health is increasing.”Marmot Review
Those in the richest areas of the country have a significant increase in life expectancy, with men living 9.5 years longer than those in the poorest areas and women living an average of 7.7 years longer than their poor counterparts.
The report states that austerity is likely to be the cause of the widening gap in health and poverty alongside the uneven application of cuts.
The report finds that cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle amongst other working-class areas have bore the brunt of austerity, with “regressive and inequitable” cuts being applied to areas which are most in need of support and investment.
“There have been ‘significant increases in poverty rates for people in work since 2010, affecting children the most… The cuts over the period shown have been regressive and inequitable – they have been greatest in areas where need is highest and conditions are generally worse. It is likely that the cuts have harmed health… The cuts over the period shown have been regressive and inequitable – they have been greatest in areas where the need is highest and conditions are generally worse. It is likely that the cuts have harmed health.”Marmot Review
Marmot finds that there are far more areas of deprivation ‘in the North, Midlands and in southern coastal towns’ than the rest of England, pointing out that these areas have been left ignored and abandoned.
“In England, health is getting worse for people living in more deprived districts and regions, health inequalities are increasing and, for the population as a whole, health is declining”Marmot Review
The report is absolutely devastating to the Conservative government, finding that they have not held health, wellbeing, inequality and poverty as a priority ever since 2010, with no national strategy in place to deal with the growing problem. The report states that leadership is “weak” and compares current statistics to those of the last Labour government, finding that under Labour statistics surrounding inequality had begun to narrow.
“If we leave this for another 10 years, we risk losing a generation.”Marmot Review