Britons will be living two-and-a-half years longer by 2040 thanks to improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine, according to new research.
Their average lifespan will increase from the current 80.8 years to 83.3 raising the UK’s ranking for life expectancy from 26th to 23rd among 195 nations.
And the most comprehensive study of its kind also showed tackling high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, drinking and air pollution could bring even better results.
A best case scenario will see it soar by as much as 4.3 years.
On the other hand, it could even drop by 0.1 year in a worse health scenario, said the international team.
The leading causes of death are expected to be heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lung cancer, lower respiratory infections, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), colon and rectum cancer, stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.
But there is ”great potential to alter the downward trajectory of health” by addressing key risk factors, levels of education and per capita income, said the researchers.
Lead author Dr Kyle Foreman, director of data science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, said: “The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible
“But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers.”
The top five that explain most of the future premature mortality are high blood pressure, high body mass index, high blood sugar and tobacco and alcohol use. Air pollution ranked sixth, he said.
In 2016 the top ten causes of premature death in the UK were heart disease, lung
cancer, stroke, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, lower respiratory infections, colon and rectum cancer, breast cancer, suicide and other cardiovascular diseases.
Experts have warned that although millions of people living longer is good news, the UK is woefully under-prepared to cope with the ageing population.
Vaccinations and antibiotics have greatly reduced deaths in childhood, health and safety in workplaces has improved and fewer people now smoke.
But the cost to the NHS and paying pensions is high.
The study published in The Lancet forecasts a significant increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the UK and other countries.
These include diabetes, COPD, chronic kidney disease and lung cancer as
well as worsening health outcomes linked to obesity.
Dr Foreman and colleagues found nearly 50 nations will gain 10 years or more in lifespans under the ‘better scenario.’
China, for instance, had a lifespan of 76.3 years in 2016 and is expected to increase to
81.9, raising its rank from 68th to 39th in 2040.
In contrast, the United States in 2016 ranked 43rd with an average lifespan of 78.7 years.
In 2040, life expectancy is forecast to increase only 1.1 years to 79.8, dropping it to 64th.
Other high-income nations predicted to drop substantially in their rankings include Canada, from 17th to 27th, Norway, from 12th to 20th, Belgium from 21st
to 28th, and the Netherlands, from 15th to 21st.
The rankings also find Spain is expected to be placed first in the world in 2040 with an average lifespan of 85.8 years, a rise from fourth in 2016 when it was 82.9 years.
Japan, ranked first in 2016 at 83.7 years, will drop to second in 2040 with an average lifespan 85.7 years.
Rounding up the top 10 for 2040 are Singapore, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Israel, France, Luxembourg and Australia.
In stark contrast, the bottom-ranked nations, the “better” and “worse scenarios” in 2040 range from a high of 75.3 years in South Africa to a low of 45.3 years in Lesotho – a 30-year difference.
IHME director Dr Christopher Murray said: “Inequalities will continue to be large. The gap between the ‘better’ and ‘worse’ scenarios will narrow but will still be significant.
‘In a substantial number of countries, too many people will continue earning relatively low incomes, remain poorly educated, and die prematurely.
‘But nations could make faster progress by helping people tackle the major risks, especially smoking and poor diet.”
Dr Foreman said the study is unprecedented in scope and provides more robust statistical modeling and more comprehensive and detailed estimates of risk factors and diseases than previous forecasts from the United Nations and other population studies institutes.
IHME researchers leveraged data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study to produce forecasts and alternative “better” and “worse” scenarios for life expectancy and mortality due to 250 causes of death for 195 countries and territories.
They produced forecasts of independent drivers of health, including sociodemographic measurements of fertility, per capita income, and years of education, along with 79 independent drivers of health such as smoking, high body mass index, and lack of clean water and sanitation.
They then used information on how each of these independent drivers affects
specific causes of death to develop forecasts of mortality.