The connection between austerity and dwindling life expectancy is hard to shake off, says David Walsh, of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. The city once had some of the worst life expectancy rates in the western world – for example in the central area of Calton, a place blighted by poor housing, illness, high smoking rates, and violence.
Inhabitants suffered high death rates linked to drug and alcohol abuse and suicides. As a result, at the beginning of the 21st century, the male life expectancy in Calton at birth was 54, one of the worst figures in the UK. Glasgow subsequently made major efforts to improve death rates in Calton but is now watching life expectancies slide back towards their old levels.
“I think it is pretty clear that austerity is to blame,” says Walsh. “We have taken away these people’s safety nets.”
The grim future facing these young adults was summed up by Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology at University College London. “If you were to go to a young man growing up in Calton who is doing drugs and alcohol and smoking and is unemployed and is unemployable and say to him: ‘Look, you really shouldn’t smoke.’ Well, you wouldn’t get far with him and, in any case, he might be quite rational for not making long-term plans because he does not have a long-term future.”