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Life expectancy falling faster in Wales than anywhere in Europe

30 Sep 2018 3 minute read
Picture by Matthias Zomer

Life expectancy in Wales is going backwards quicker than anywhere else in Europe according to new data from the Office of National Statistics.

And Westminster austerity is to blame for the fall, according to an Oxford University Professor.

Official statistics from the ONS show that life expectancy fell by 5.72 weeks for men in Wales between 2014-2016 and 2015-2017, and by 4.16 weeks for women.

In England, life expectancy rose by 1.56 weeks for men and 0.52 weeks for women.

The comparative figures for the other UK countries were:


Country Men Women
Wales -5.72 weeks -4.16 weeks
Scotland -2.6 weeks -3.12 weeks
England +1.56 weeks +0.52 weeks
N. Ireland -4.16 weeks +0.52 weeks


Speaking to the BBC’s World at One earlier this week, Oxford University Professor, Danny Dorling, said that Westminster policy was to blame, highlighting cuts to public sector services and a drop in immigration.

“We know that we have had no harsh winters since 2010 so it’s not cold winters; we know it’s not an influenza epidemic because we haven’t had one of those,” he said.

“We’re beginning to narrow it down to two things: The big thing is austerity and the cuts affecting the frail and the elderly in many, many ways, and the second thing is that we’re no longer getting the young, healthy migrants that we were getting in the past which were actually helping boost our statistics.”

‘Wake-up call’

Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams has called the figures “scandalous”, saying they reflect how Westminster austerity has disproportionately affected Wales.

“These scandalous figures show the real impact of Westminster’s policies on people’s lives,” he said.

“This is not just people earning less, or paying more for their mortgages and groceries, it is people dying earlier than they should be.

“For Wales – a country that is bound to one of the richest states in the world – to see life expectancy not only falling when it is rising elsewhere, but for it to be falling faster than anywhere else in Europe should send shivers down the spines of those who have forced through these savage cuts to public services.

“It is the first time since the Second World War that the infant mortality rate has risen two years in a row across the UK and we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of elderly and frail people dying two or three years earlier than normal.

“And what have we got to show for it? Austerity continues to be driven by those who claim it is necessary to eliminate the budget deficit but the reality is that austerity has depressed economic growth, leading to less money coming in, pushing the apparent goal of a balanced budget further and further away.

“So we should look at who has gained, and look no further than the pampered lives of the fat cats who win on the way up – and win on the way down too.

“It is a self-defeating prophecy and Wales cannot afford to be subjected to more of it. Those responsible in Westminster should hang their heads in shame and recognise the damage they continue to cause.”

Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said: “This damning new data should serve as a wake-up call.

“Place of birth too often determines length and quality of life. An overarching strategy to narrow these stark health inequalities must be a priority of Government ministers.”

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