The UK's Crumbling Life Expectancy

The UK's Crumbling Life Expectancy

In the 1950s the UK had one of the highest life expectancies in the world, ranking seventh globally. Today, we rank at just 29th¹.

Similarly, other metrics paint a troubling picture:

  • 63% of UK adults are either overweight or obese.² The UK has the fourth highest obesity rate in Europe.³

One in ten UK people over 40 years-old have type 2 diabetes⁴

Somewhere between 29% and 34% of 16-24 year olds are living with a long-term medical condition, illness, or disability.⁵

Britain has the worst healthy life expectancy in western Europe.⁶

We can’t point to one single factor as being responsible for the UK’s dramatic change in past decades from being a healthy to unhealthy nation. Instead, there may be a few complicated issues at play.

One issue might be our nation’s food literacy. Not only does the UK population seem to have a poor understanding of healthy food vs unhealthy food, but the UK government lags behind other countries when it comes to practical measures that lead to people making more informed choices about their food.

For example, in 2014 Brazil introduced a radical new set of guidelines that particularly targeted processed foods,⁷ and then in 2022 introduced a mandatory front-of-package warning label (FOPL) for ultra-processed foods.⁸ There is no similar parallel in the UK that allows us to understand our food in a similarly snapshot fashion. Even processed foods like cereals and margarines which are scientifically understood to be unhealthy feature on the NHS website as healthy.

Our bodies have changed over the last few decades, and this isn’t merely a problem of willpower resulting in a lack of exercise and therefore leading to higher rates of obesity. Instead, the contents of our plates have changed over the years. In the 1940s, we got 32% of our calories from fat whereas today it’s 40%. Similarly, processed and ultra processed foods were not nearly as readily available as they are today, meaning they weren’t consumed at the same high quantities.⁹

So, where do we go from here?

There’s a lot of information out there about healthiness – how to be healthy, what a healthy food is, what a healthy food isn’t, exercises that actually aren’t that great, and so on. It can be difficult to know what’s true, and to find out what’s true for you as an individual. After all, no two bodies are the same.

What’s more, just because you look healthy on the outside, that doesn’t mean you are on the inside. There are some things there are just no way of knowing by looking in the mirror.

That’s what health screenings are for. A health screening takes a deep dive into your health to give you the fullest possible picture. Comprised of a battery of tests, a health screening will tell you precisely where you are with your health and then give you further recommendations for improvement. Plus, as a Towergate Health & Protection client, you have access to exclusive discounts on health screenings. Simply use our clinic finder to find your local health screening clinic and begin your health journey on the right foot today.