Rising rates of life expectancy are grinding to a halt after more than 100 years of continuous progress, according to a leading health expert.
University College London expert Sir Michael Marmot said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation, calling it “historically highly unusual”.
He said it was “entirely possible” austerity was to blame and said the issue needed looking at urgently.
But the government said its policies were not responsible.
The Department of Health said ministers were providing the necessary support and funding to ensure life expectancy “continues to increase”.
How life expectancy rises have slowed
Using Office for National Statistics projections for babies born since 2000, Sir Michael, who has advised both the government and World Health Organization, showed the rate of increase in life expectancy had nearly halved since 2010.
Between 2000 and 2015, life expectancy at birth increased by one year every five years for women and by one year every 3.5 years for men.
But this compares to one year every 10 years for women and one for every six for men post-2010.
Sir Michael, who is director of the Institute of Health Equity at UCL, said this showed the growth in life expectancy was “pretty close to having ground to a halt”.
He said that was “historically highly unusual” given the rising life expectancy seen over the past 100 years.
“I am deeply concerned with the levelling off, I expected it to keep getting better.”
Is austerity to blame?
He said it was hard to draw firm conclusions about the cause.
But he said it was “entirely possible” austerity had played a role.
He explained social factors such as education, employment and working conditions and poverty all affected life expectancy by influencing lifestyles.
And as austerity was placing pressures on these, they may in turn be influencing life expectancy.