Key points

  • Since 2011 improvements in life expectancy in the UK have stalled, and for certain groups of the population, gone into reverse.
  • This report presents new analysis of mortality data, exploring what has happened, who is affected and what is driving current trends.
  • The analysis uncovers worrying trends, including a rising number of avoidable deaths among the under 50s and a widening gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest.
  • There is no single cause of the slowdown, and no single solution: instead actions must be taken on the wider factors that shape the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.
  • Note: for our latest content on COVID-19 mortality, visit our COVID-19 chart series.

Throughout the 20th century, the UK saw significant increases in life expectancy, influenced by better incomes and living conditions, changing habits and medical advances. Yet while mortality rates continued to improve during the 2000s, since 2011 they have stalled, and for certain groups of the population, gone into reverse.

Given the social and political importance of these trends and their implications for life expectancy, the Health Foundation commissioned a research team from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Vienna Institute of Demography to carry out a comprehensive literature review and analysis of trends, and how they compared with what is happening in other countries.

Our analysis builds on this research to explore the reasons behind stalling life expectancy improvements in the UK, uncovering worrying trends affecting groups of the population. While people in wealthier areas of the UK continue to live longer, for those living in the most deprived areas, life expectancy improvements are stalling. For women in these areas, life expectancy has fallen. 

The report calls for an independent body in the UK to scrutinise government policy and provide independent, expert analysis and advice on the drivers of mortality, and identify policy action required to protect life expectancy for future generations.

Other resources

Read the press release

Download a slide pack with the charts from the report (.pptx) (12.4 MB)

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Cite this publication

Marshall M, Finch D, Cairncross L, Bibby J. Mortality and life expectancy trends in the UK: Stalling progress. Health Foundation; 2019. (https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/mortality-and-life-expectancy-trends-in-the-uk)

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