Intended for healthcare professionals


Have mortality improvements stalled in England?

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 08 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1946
  1. Mark Fransham, researcher and DPhil candidate,
  2. Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder professor of geography
  1. School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
  1. mark.fransham{at}

Same data—different stories

From 2014 to 2015 the number of deaths in England and Wales rose by 5.6% (by 28 000 to 530 000 in 2015), the largest percentage year on year increase since 1968.1 US life expectancy started to fall in 2016, which was attributed to declining access to healthcare for poorer Americans and wider societal factors.2 For middle aged Americans, death rates have not improved in almost 20 years, owing to “a lack of hope.”3

On 6 April 2017 the UK Office for National Statistics released an analysis of deaths in England from January 2001 to the end of December 2016.4 It said that fewer deaths were registered in 2016 (491 000) than in 2015 and that the death rate in 2016 (958.0 deaths per 100 000 population) was the second lowest since 2001. Life expectancy in 2016 was higher than in 2015, and the number of deaths in 2016 was lower than expected based on the average death rate between 2011 and 2015 (973.3 per 100 000). Death rates have fallen among people aged over 75 since 2001, by almost a …

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