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expert reaction to analysis of global life expectancy data

An analysis of life expectancy in the UK from 1952 to 2021 has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.


Dr Jonathan Filippon, Senior Lecturer in Health Systems and Political Economy of Health, Queen Mary University of London, said:

“Hiam and colleagues demonstrate that both the UK and the US have been lagging behind in relation to other high income countries; they comprehensively explore the different aspects to which we can attribute this.  In order to do so, they highlight the role of social inequalities in the process. Poorer people die sooner throughout the world but the question that lingers is why social inequality gets worse here and on the other side of the pond simultaneously and over so many decades? 

“Here, we do need to look at the predominant ideologies running at both nation states;  the major liberal approach to nation states inaugurated by the duo Thatcher and Reagan had disastrous consequences to their population’s levels of equality. While markets can continue to thrive in countries – even during a crisis such as we’ve seen recently with the UK energy sector – they can also exacerbate inequalities as well. The authors do great work in pointing to the many factors surrounding this phenomenon.”


Prof Paul Pharoah, Research Scientist, Department of Computational Biomedicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, said:

“This study is based on the most recent world demographic data compiled by the United Nations Population Division and includes data from 1950 to 2022.  In addition to data on population size by country, there are data on various measures of health including life expectancy which is based on age specific mortality rates.  Life expectancy around the world has increased dramatically over the past 70 years, but the rate of increase has varied substantially between countries.  Life expectancy in the UK was seventh highest in the world in the early 1950s, but by 2021 it has fallen to 29th in the world.  The authors speculate on the reasons for the long term decline and highlight the importance of income inequality as a likely factor;  income inequality – the relative difference between the wealthiest and the poorest in a country – has increased in the UK over many years.”



‘Falling down the global ranks: life expectancy in the UK 1952–2021’ by Lucinda Hiam et al. was published in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine at 00:05 UK time on Thursday 16th March.

DOI: 10.1177/01410768231155637



Declared interests

Dr Jonathan Filippon: “No declarations of interest.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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