Life expectancy stalls while GDP rises as BMA calls on Government to adopt health in all policies approach

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 11 February 2022
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Responding to the news that UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have increased by 1.0% in the last quarter of 20211, BMA President Professor Neena Modi said:

"The news that the health of our economy is bouncing back, after a crippling two years, returning to almost pre-pandemic levels, will be of huge relief to many people. The Gross Domestic Product - a rough approximation of the goods and services produced by a country - increased by 7.5% overall in 2021, following a fall of 9.4% in 2020.1 However, while the nation hopes the worst of the economic hit of the pandemic may now be behind us, the true toll on health has yet to be fully understood. GDP doesn’t reveal much about the things that really matter to people, such as health, wellbeing and living standards.

"GDP may have grown over the last decade, but life expectancy has stalled. Just last month, Government statisticians released data showing that children born in 2022 are now expected to live five years less than was projected ten years ago.2 Even before the pandemic, healthy life expectancy in the UK was falling, with children born before the pandemic in 2017 to 2019 expected to live fewer years in good health than children born from 2014 to 2016.3 This is a catastrophe, for individuals and for the nation.

"The rising cost of living is putting very real pressure on the ability of many people to live healthy lives. Nearly two thirds of UK households have experienced higher energy bills this winter and 16% of households have had to cut back on the quality or quantity of food they buy to afford other essentials. New data from the Food Foundation published this week showed a continued rise in food insecurity, with 8.8% of UK households experiencing unreliable access to food in the past month alone.4

"These facts make for uncomfortable reading but Government must tackle them head on if they are to honour their promise to create a more equal nation. Last week’s long awaited Levelling Up white paper recognised there is much more to national success than GDP. The Government and the Treasury must now move their focus to the things that will make a meaningful difference to people's lives.  

"Ministers must also spend less time scrutinising indices that solely focus on the economy. Good health is priceless and the Government must value it by recognising its importance in all their policies."

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Office for National Statistics - GDP first quarterly estimate, UK: October to December 2021
  2. Office for National Statistics – All data relating to life expectancies
  3. Office for National Statistics – Health state life expectancies, UK: 2017 to 2019
  4. For more information please see the new data published by the Food Foundation which shows the continued rise in food insecurity across the UK.