Have we all stopped living longer and what does that mean for Scotland?

How many times have you heard the words ‘we are all living longer’ in the last few years? We are told that this has become a serious problem with regards to health care and pensions. Part of the solution they say is to raise the retirement age. If we are all living longer then we must all work longer. Simple isn’t it? Well, no it isn’t.
As well as containing lots of numbers (so it must be true right?) statistics also contain many projections, estimates and assumptions. Different countries use differing methodologies and arrive at different conclusions. The wise person does not accept statistical reports at face value without some interrogation. One such person is Professor Danny Dorling of the University of Oxford. In a news item on his website entitled “The latest population projections for Britain suggests a million years of life could disappear by 2058. Why?” suggests that all may not be as we are being sold.
Prof Dorling points out that projections published by the ONS (Office of National Statistics) in October 2017 estimates that, by 2041 life expectancy for men and women will be almost 1 year shorter than expected at 83.1 and 86.2 respectively. Analysis of the ONS report by Prof. Dorling produced some very interesting conclusions. He says, ” This means by 2058 a further 1 million deaths will occur earlier than had been thought. “every year up until at least the year 2084, people across the UK are now expected to die earlier” and that “this is affecting young people too and is all a result of the mortality [death rate] having risen or stalled in recent years”. ” 110 years of steady increase in life expectancy seems to have come to a halt”


Obviously when it comes to life expectancy the NHS is a major player. What does this mean then? Has medical ability to intervene (treatments, medicines, surgery) reached some sort of equilibrium with the human body’s natural ability to survive past an average old age? In the absence of any meaningful anti ageing systems (as far as is generally known) such a point must exist. Who knows?
Another major player in life expectancy is Socio economic conditions. Housing, jobs, public services and their availability are all part of the mix and can have a major impact on average life expectancy. Population size (part of the statistical mix) is important, not least for economic activity. A bustling economy with well paid jobs and good housing has a huge effect on people’s well being and health.
Population projections published by the ONS on 22nd June 2017 are very interesting. They show that from 1971 to 2016 the population of England has grown to 55,268,100 whereas Scotland’s population has practically flat lined since 1971 and is now 5,404,700. Tables measuring the time scale mid 2011 to mid 2016 show that for the age group 0 to 15 growth in England is around 5% with the  share going to London at  around 11%.Scotland is shown at 0%. For the same time period but ages from 16 to 64, England is shown with growth around 1.75% again London at 5.5%. Scotland is shown at only just over 0% (Wales is actually shown negative) It may not be so much that we are all living longer in Scotland but rather that we are producing less and less young people to balance the population.

What can be done about this? Well, the obvious thing that springs to mind is to encourage Scottish  people to have more children. This of course will involve a substantial time lag and impact on already stretched services etc. Another solution is to invite inward migrants of suitable age and skill levels. Best idea is to do both. The problem is, the ability to Recruit people from across  Europe to come and build a life in Scotland has become very uncertain. UK Torie government intentions seem to be  to grab powers returning from the EU which belong to Scotland and undermine and roll back devolution. Fortunately Scotland has control of the Scottish NHS but has no control over inward migration which is vital for the Scottish economy. Population size matters when trying to grow your economy (that’s a whole other subject) in order to sustain the viability of your country. There is only so much you can achieve when building the country you want with a half empty toolbox.

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