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Views And Reviews

The UK’s current health problems should be treated with urgency

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 02 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4526
  1. Michael Marmot
  1. UCL Institute of Health Equity, London, UK
  1. m.marmot{at}

Health inequalities, the slow-down in life expectancy, and the north-south divide all need tackling

Alarm about the nation’s health is a rational response to recent evidence. Current national health problems should be treated with as much urgency as a winter bed crisis in the NHS. The recent evidence has three components that are probably linked: improvement in life expectancy, going on for 100 years, has slowed since 2010; health inequalities, which probably reduced during the 2000s, have grown again since about 2012; and the persistent north-south divide in health—particularly marked among younger people.

Life expectancy

Between 1920 and 2010, life expectancy increased from 55 to 78 in men, and from 59 to 82 in women. We simply got much healthier as a society, remarkably quickly. Over this period, life expectancy increased by about one year every four years. To see how remarkable that is, think that if you rose at 6 in the morning, by noon you still have as long to live as you did when you woke—six hours …

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