Posted on 06/03/2013

UK Positions in 'Early Death League' Worsen

UK Positions in 'Early Death League' Worsen

UK lagging behind similar countries on indicators of ill-health

Recent reports, widely broadcast by the media state that “the UK is lagging behind progress by similar countries on many indicators for ill-health”.

Based on a study published in The Lancet, the research had three main aims; to look at leading causes of disease and disability in the UK, to assess the leading preventable risk that caused these patterns and to compare the results with a similar study in 1990, as well as health outcomes for other western countries such as the US, EU states and Australia.

A key finding of the study, was that although there have been improvements across the board with regards to health outcomes over the last 30 years, these improvements have been outstripped by other countries.

Trends highlighted included an alarming statistic that out of the 10 leading causes of premature death in the UK, many of them, including heart disease and lung cancer, are to some extent, preventable. The research suggests that there is a great deal more that can be done in terms of public health awareness and preventive medicine.

Out of the findings, several areas were pinpointed:

- Overall life expectancy in the UK increased by 4.2 years from 1990 to 2010, but despite this, compared to other European countries, our position on death rates worsened.
- For premature death, worsening ranks highlighted in the UK compared to other EU countries were most notable among men and women aged 20 to 54.
- Across all age groups, Alzheimer’s, liver disease and drug use disorder contributed to more premature deaths in 2010 than in 1990.
- Compared to other western countries, the UK had significantly higher rates for heart disease, breast cancer and certain lung diseases.
- The main causes of living with disabilities in 2010 were mental, behavioural and musculoskeletal disorders.
- The leading risk factor of disease was tobacco (11.8%) followed by high blood pressure (9%) and high body mass index (8.6%)
- Diet and physical inactivity was accountable for 14.3% of disability adjusted life year in the UK.

In response to the findings, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, is reported as saying ‘despite real progress in cutting deaths, we remain a poor relative to our global cousins on many measures of health’.

The Department of Health has also published a document ‘Living Well for Longer: A call to action to reduce unavoidable premature mortality’, which invites questions on some key points such as how prevention and early diagnosis to prevent chronic disease can be improved? And whether there are more effective ways to promote the dangers of smoking, drinking and unhealthy lifestyles.

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