Britain’s economy may be in the sick bay, but its people’s health is rapidly improving. This may seem a surprise considering the vast coverage of increasing obesity rates. However, new statistics show deaths from cancers, heart disease and suicide are on the decrease.
The Government set a target in 2004 to reduce cancer deaths by 20 per cent between 2009-11 - and it looks like they are well on course as a report revealed yesterday showed an 18.2 per cent drop in the last ten years.
Even better are the statistics for heart disease - there has been a massive 40 per cent decrease in related deaths in the last decade - far surpassing the government target for 2009-11.
Additionally suicide rates are down 13.9 per cent and the Department of Health predicts if trends continue the 20 per cent target will be met.
Conversely, the death rate from accident related mortalities has a long way to go, with a 0.3 per cent increase in the same period - showing there is long way to go before the 20 per cent reduction target is met. This is despite road safety improvement and better car design.
There has also been no change in health inequalities - with people living in socially deprived areas still dying younger than those in more affluent areas.
The decrease in cancer and heart disease related deaths can be attributed to better screening and treatment, along with people making more concerted efforts to lead healthier lives - including giving up smoking.
Around four million people in Britain are taking Statins - a cholesterol reducing drug to tackle heart disease. Anti-clotting drugs and operations such as angioplasty (widening the coronary arteries) have prevented thousands of deaths from heart attacks and strokes.
Despite the excellent success rates, doctors feel there is far more work to be done. In a recent survey, statistics show only 66 per cent of patients with heart disease were receiving appropriate treatment to control blood pressure. If this was improved this figure could increase to 90 per cent, saving over 3,000 lives a year.
While the amount of cancer diagnoses are increasing as the population gets older, people are living longer now than ever before with the disease - sometimes for decades. This is largely due to awareness, with better screening and people receiving earlier diagnoses and treatment. So, despite a rapid increase in breast cancer, the death rate has dropped dramatically due to advances in radiotherapy, surgery and drug treatment.
Suicide is the significant concern when dealing with mental illness, but due to an improvement in social services providing specially trained teams, as well as better designed mental health facilities, death rates have been cut.
The British Heart Foundation are happy with the mortality decrease, but have criticised the still very apparent gap between rich and poor health problems. A spokesman said,
“Heart disease is preventable so we should be trying to make the greatest progress in the areas with the highest rates.”