Stalling of Mortality in the United Kingdom and Europe: Trends and Explanations

Michael Murphy , London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Marc Luy, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, OeAW, Univ. Vienna)
Orsola Torrisi, London School of Economics

Improvement in UK mortality rates has declined substantially in this decade and the overall value is now close to zero, leading to calls for interventions. A similar but less severe trend has been observed in most neighbouring high-income Western European countries, and the U.S. has exhibited a longer-term deterioration in mortality improvement. The stalling of European improvement is most pronounced in UK (all constituent parts), Netherlands, Belgium, France & Germany, with the change in trend occurring around period 2006-11 based on a changepoint analysis. Deterioration is broadly similar in most age groups and in both sexes, indicating that a single cause such as the U.S. opioid epidemic is unlikely to account for more than a small fraction of the observed change. We review explanations that have been advanced. The fall in life expectancy in 19 of 28 EU countries between 2014 and 2015 due to an increase in seasonal influenza led to particular attention being given to such epidemics as a major contributor to mortality stalling. However, we do not find this a convincing explanation for underlying trend movements. Government austerity policies following the 2008 banking crisis can provide some explanation within countries, but fail to explain cross-national differences. Cardio-vascular disease mortality trends are mainly responsible for overall changes as they have been for many decades. We consider possible mechanisms such as cohort smoking patterns and introduction of statins and, in particular, how they may lead to tempo effects that may have contributed to recent trends.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 20. National Trends in Life Expectancy and Mortality