Throughout the 20th Century, the UK experienced steady improvements in life expectancy. However, since 2011, something unusual and, in modern British history, unprecedented has happened to life expectancy: it has flatlined. In some parts of the country, life expectancy has even decreased.
Declining life expectancy and public health are particularly affecting older women living alone in poorer areas. Research has pinpointed 29 areas where we see falling life expectancy for women; chief among them are seaside towns and post-industrial areas. In Sheffield, life expectancy for the poorest women has fallen by four years since the Tories came to power in 2010.
The life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest in this country is nothing less than shameful. According to the Institute of Health Equity, the longest life expectancy in the country is, unsurprisingly, in the richest borough: Kensington and Chelsea. Men in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to live to 83 and women to 86. In Glasgow, life expectancy for men is 73 and in West Dunbartonshire it is 79 for women – 10 years of difference for men and seven years for women.
These inequalities also exist when we look at healthy life expectancy – the years that people can expect to live a healthy life. The average baby girl born in Manchester between 2014 and 2016 will live to be 79, but only until age 54 will she be healthy. That is almost one third of her life spent grappling with health issues that will not affect the average woman born on Orkney until she is 71 years old.
The observation is unavoidable that these patterns coincide with the era of austerity. It is simply inconceivable that the state of our welfare system, housing, fuel poverty, child poverty and our NHS have had no impact on public health.
While the Tories have imposed almost a decade of spending cuts across our public services, a Labour Government will ensure that our health and care system is properly funded. We’re committed to doing all we can to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life and older people are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.