Health in the United Kingdom

Health in the United Kingdom refers to the overall health of the population of the United Kingdom. Smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity in the United Kingdom are all above the OECD average.[1]

Health gap in England and Wales, 2011 Census

Health statusEdit

The Nuffield Trust and the Association for Young People's Health produced a report on the health of young people in February 2019, comparing the UK with 18 other similar European countries. They found that the UK had the highest rates of obesity, the highest rate of young people living with a longstanding condition, apart from Finland and Sweden, and, among 11 year olds, very low rates of exercise. The death rate from asthma and the teenage pregnancy rate were both amongst the highest. Indicators for obesity, longstanding illness, severe material deprivation and exercise levels were all deteriorating. [2]

Life expectancyEdit

Historical development of life expectancy, 1543 to 2019

In 2013 Life expectancy at birth for women was 83 years and for men 79 years.[3] Life expectancy in the UK is rising more slowly than in other comparable nations. Austerity may be a cause.[4] Underfunding of the NHS and Social care are blamed.[5] In 2018 life expectancy in the UK stopped increasing for the first time since 1982 when recording started.[6] There were 50,100 excess deaths during winter 2017/2018 mostly among older people. This is the highest since 1976. Cold weather and problems with flu vaccine are blamed. Also the NHS was underresourced, doctors and groups representing older people claim not enough was done to keep older people warm and safe.[7]

Infant mortalityEdit

The reduction in infant mortality between 1960 and 2008 for the United Kingdom in comparison with France, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The overall trend has meant a large improvement in health inside the United Kingdom.

Infant mortality rates have been decreasing since the early 1840s, due to general improvements in sanitation and diet and more recently because of improvements in midwifery and neonatal intensive care.[8]


The rising rates of childhood obesity were described as a "national emergency" by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in February 2016.[9] 28.1% of adults in the United Kingdom were recognised as clinically obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30 in 2014.[10]

Smoking ratesEdit

In 1974, 45% of the British population smoked. The smoking rate was down to 30% by the early-1990s, 21% by 2010, and 19.3% by 2013, the lowest level for eighty years.[11] In 2015, smoking rates in England had fallen to 16.9%.[12]


There were 361,216 cancer diagnoses in 2014 in the United Kingdom.[13] Three quarters of cancers were related to smoking and drinking.[14]

Mental healthEdit

In 2014, the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey reported that 17% of those surveyed in England met the criteria for a common mental disorder. About 37% of those were accessing mental health treatment. Those more severely affected were more likely to be accessing services.[15] In 2017 a survey found that 65% of Britons have experienced a mental health problem, with 26% having had a panic attack and 42% said they had suffered from depression.[16]

Benefit cuts and sanctions "are having a toxic impact on mental health" according to the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people increased from 10.1% in June 2013 to 15.2% in March 2017. In the general population the increase was from 3.4% to 4.1%.[17]


6,045; 5,608 and 5,675 people aged 15 and over died by suicide in 2009 to 2011 respectively.[18][19]

Drug-related deathsEdit


An estimated 101,200 people are living with HIV in the UK (0.16% of the population), 13% of whom are unaware of their infection. Of those, 69% are men and 31% were women.[20] Just under half of those living with HIV are gay or bisexual men.[20] 1 in 7 gay or bisexual men in London are living with HIV, compared to 1 in 25 in the rest of the UK and less than 1 in 500 for the general population.[20]

6,095 people were newly diagnosed during 2015, a trend which has remained relatively constant since 2010.[21] An estimated 39% of diagnoses were late (likely to have been living with the virus for over three years).[20]


In 2014 more than 11 million British people (excluding Northern Ireland) were reported to have a long term impairment or disability. The incidence rises with age. About 6% of children, 16% of working age adults and 45% of pensioners are reported as having a disability.[22]


In the United Kingdom, the purchase and distribution of vaccines is managed centrally, and recommended vaccines are provided for free by the NHS.[23] In the UK, no laws require vaccination of schoolchildren.[23]

Health dynamicsEdit


The Black Report, published by the Conservative government in 1980, highlighted the relationship between socioeconomic status and health outcomes. It demonstrated greater inequality of mortality between occupational classes I and V both in 1970–72 and 1959–63 than in 1949–53.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Health at a Glance 2015 How does the United Kingdom compare?" (PDF). OECD. 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  2. ^ "International comparisons of health and wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood". Nuffield Trust. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  3. ^ "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". World Health Organization. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  4. ^ UK among worst for life expectancy rises BBC
  5. ^ UK life expectancy growth falls faster than other leading nations The Guardian
  6. ^ Life expectancy progress in UK 'stops for first time' BBC
  7. ^ Excess winter deaths in England and Wales highest since 1976 The Guardian
  8. ^ "Childhood mortality in England and Wales: 2015". Office for National Statistics. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  9. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (7 February 2016). "Childhood obesity is a national emergency, says Jeremy Hunt". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Prevalence of obesity, ages 18+, 2010-2014". World Health Organization. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Ministers aim to halve number of people smoking by 2020". BBC News. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Smoking rates in England fall to lowest on record". BBC News. 20 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Cancer Is More Common Than Marriage Or Having A First Baby In The UK". International Business Times. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Revealed for the first time: the cancer map of Britain". The Daily Telegraph. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014". NHS Digital. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  16. ^ Two thirds of adults experience mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, survey finds. The Independent. Published 8 May 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed". The Independent. 17 July 2017. Archived from the original on 2022-05-09. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  18. ^ "UK suicide rate rises 'significantly' in 2011". BBC News. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Suicide rates in the United Kingdom, 2006 to 2010" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  20. ^ a b c d "HIV in the UK" (PDF). UK Government. Public Health England. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  21. ^ "HIV diagnoses, late diagnoses and numbers accessing treatment and care" (PDF). UK Government. Public Health England. October 2016. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Disability facts and figures". Department for Work and Pensions - Office for Disability Issues. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  23. ^ a b Freed GL (2005). "Vaccine policies across the pond: looking at the U.K. and U.S. systems". Health Affairs. 24 (3): 755–7. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.24.3.755. PMID 15886170.
  24. ^ Black Report. London: HMSO. 1980. Retrieved 24 August 2017.