Life expectancy in Britain is trailing countries in the rest of Europe, an analysis shows.
Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, said the rest of Europe is living ever longer while progress in Britain has stalled.
He has called for an immediate investigation into why a century of lengthening lives has come to an end.
Sir Michael raised the alarm in July over static life expectancies, pointing out that until 2010 Britons were gaining a year of life every four years. Since then the rise has almost ground to a halt.
Some argued this could be because life expectancy was nearing its natural limit.
Sir Michael, author of a government-ordered report on health inequality, compared progress in Britain with that of other European countries, many of which already have longer life expectancies.
He found that the gap was getting wider, with growth in female life expectancy at birth the worst in Europe and male growth the second worst, according to the EU statistics body Eurostat.
Writing in The Times, Sir Michael warned: “Were this to keep up, we would soon become the sick man and woman of Europe. This is a new and worrying trend.”
There have been slowdowns in rising life expectancy in all countries since the global financial crisis, but Sir Michael found this has been particularly marked and pronounced in the UK, which has slipped from mid-table in life expectancy growth to the bottom of the pack.
Female life expectancy at birth in Britain is 83, slightly below the EU average, below almost all of western Europe and well behind 86 in Spain and France.
For men it is 79, slightly above average but well behind seven countries where it is above 80.
Sir Michael said austerity was part of the reason for the gap, with health and social care spending under pressure and real wage growth slower in Britain than in any other country except Greece.
However, he conceded there are clear counter-arguments.
Many countries that cut health spending far deeper, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, are still doing better than Britain.
Germany, which has been relatively unscathed by the economic downturn, is the only country where life expectancy has also stalled.
“It’s not going to be as simple as austerity leads to worse health,” he said. “Greece has always stood out as a country with remarkably long life expectancy despite being relatively poor. It may be the diet in Greece.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Health inequality is a challenging and complex area. Despite widespread variation, smoking rates are at an all-time low and cancer survival rates at a record high. We are investing more than £16bn in local government services over the current spending period to help tackle public health issues.”
This article was first published in HI Daily. You can see the original article here.