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Further evidence of detrimental changes to population health

21 Feb 2023

Today, we published an updated summary of changing mortality rates in Scotland and the UK. This builds on the extensive evidence that we, and others, have previously published on the profound and deeply concerning changes to these trends since around 2012: a stalling in mortality improvements overall, increasing death rates among the most deprived communities, and a widening in inequalities.   

Our May 'Resetting the course for population health' report attributed these changes principally to the implementation of UK Government austerity policies through a critical assessment of all the evidence at that time.

Since then, yet more research has been published in the academic literature on the detrimental changes to different aspects of population health. We have also updated the mortality analyses with the most recent figures. This paper summarises this updated evidence by:

  1. Briefly summarising the findings of the new academic literature.
  2. Presenting updates of the previously-published mortality analyses to cover (i) the period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e. up to the end of 2019); and (ii) the two years of the pandemic (i.e. up to the end of 2021).

In doing this, the paper provides further evidence of the detrimental changes to different aspects of population health:

  • further widening of all-cause and cause-specific mortality inequalities
  • a dramatic reversal of previously declining mortality rates among socioeconomically deprived populations
  • an unprecedented decline in healthy life expectancy
  • worsening trends in poor mental health
  • the (much smaller) contribution of obesity to stalled national mortality trends

Commenting on this new analysis, Dr David Walsh, Public Health Programme Manager at GCPH and lead author of the updated summary stated:

Austerity has had a devastating impact on poorer communities across the country: premature mortality rates in the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow and Dundee are now higher than they were 20 years ago. These appalling trends require urgent action. These changes, and the causes of these changes, to population health in Scotland and the UK are very clear; the required policy responses from different governments are also very clear. Political will and action to implement those policies is urgently required.

Access the summary paper here.

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