July 18
Headline Marmot Indicators might not indicate headlines

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity, has today warned that rate of increase in life expectancy is “pretty close to having ground to a halt” over the past five years. Sir Michael mentioned concerns about “miserly” spending on health and social care but stressed that he could not make any conclusions about the drivers behind the stagnation in life expectancy. Nevertheless, this has not deterred several papers from drawing their own conclusions - the Independent boldly leading with a headline of “Rise in life expectancy has stalled since Tories introduced austerity in 2010”.

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We have blogged previously on the curious correlation between healthcare spending increases and mortality improvements. It follows logically that there should be some link between the two. However, the extent of this link is extremely difficult to quantify and the role of reduced public spending on the current slowdown is far from certain. Further research is needed and hopefully, if the media interest in this area sustains, the demand for the necessary research will increase.
 
Sir Michael’s comments accompanied the release of the latest briefing on the ‘Marmot Indicators’, a set of indicators for healthcare outcomes and social inequality. One point of interest from this briefing is that ‘Dementia and Alzheimer’s’ is now the most common cause of death in women aged 80 and over and in men aged 85 and over. The briefing suggests this is a product of an ageing society as well as an improvement in diagnosing dementia and a change in the way in which deaths are coded.
 
For men, 60% of all deaths occur at age 75 and over. For women, the figure is 75%. What happens at these older ages is critical to determining how life expectancies change. If we are to return to the high level of mortality improvements observed in the 1990s and 2000s, a reduction in the mortality rate from dementia and other degenerative mental health illnesses may well be the key.

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