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Mortality trends in countries and cities of the UK

Date: November 2020
Category: Summary
Author: GCPH

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This short summary provides an overview of a major study of mortality across UK countries and cities highlights worsening mortality among the UK’s poorest communities.

The research analysed almost 40 years of mortality trends up to 2017 across all parts of the UK: Scotland, England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and 11 key cities. Analyses were undertaken by sex, for different age groups, multiple causes of death, and comparing levels of deprivation.

Importantly, the analyses pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic, and so provide crucial context for understanding the scale of pandemic-related mortality and inequalities. The findings point to the public health emergency and inequalities crisis the UK was already faced with before the pandemic and the growing urgency of the issue if we are to reverse these trends. 

The key findings are:

  • The ‘stalling’ of improvement in mortality (and related measures like life expectancy) has been observed across all parts of the UK, suggesting common root cause
  • This overall ‘stalling’ of improvement actually masks increasing death rates among the poorest communities across the UK.
  • As a consequence, health (mortality) inequalities have widened dramatically across all parts of the UK. These widening of inequalities are seen for a very broad set of different causes of death, both chronic conditions like respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and other causes such as alcohol and drug-related factors.
  • The changes have been seen for men and women alike, and different age groups.

Access the full BMJ Open journal article: ‘Changing mortality trends in countries and cities of the UK: a population-based trend analysis’