Exploring changing mortality trends across the UK

Mortality in UK countries and cities

Previous research has highlighted important changes in (pre-COVID-19 pandemic) mortality trends in both Scotland and England. With the exception of periods around the world wars, mortality rates (and associated measures such as life expectancy) have improved markedly and consistently since current records began.

However, a notable slow-down in mortality improvement has been observed in the UK since around 2012, with a ‘levelling off’ of previously falling rates. This has been attributed to the effects of UK Government ‘austerity’ measures put in place since 2010, and which have disproportionately affected the poorest in society.

The aim of this research (published in 2020) was to explore these changing mortality trends in more detail across the different countries, cities, and neighbourhoods of the UK.

We analysed long-term trends (1981-2017) in mortality rates in Scotland, England & Wales, and Northern Ireland, and in key UK cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen in Scotland; Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and Bristol in England; and Belfast in Northern Ireland. Analyses were undertaken by sex, for different age groups, multiple causes of death, and comparing levels of deprivation.

The full results were published in the BMJ Open journal.

A short summary is available (PDF).

Watch a presentation of the key findings by lead author David Walsh on our YouTube channel.

A larger GCPH report, encompassing these and other mortality analyses, will be published in 2021.