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Health Club Management

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Editor's letter: A matter of life and death

Life expectancy in some Western countries peaked a decade ago and is now in decline, as modern life proves to be less than optimal for human health. Our biggest goal as an industry must be to play our part in reversing this trend

By Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 3
The industry can support people to extend healthy longevity / PHOTO: Olena Yakobchuk/SHUTTERSTOCK
The industry can support people to extend healthy longevity / PHOTO: Olena Yakobchuk/SHUTTERSTOCK

Given all we know about health and wellbeing and with increasing affluence and advances in modern medicine, you’d expect we’d be living longer, healthier lives with less disease and greater vitality.

However, statistics published last week by the UK’s Institute and Faculty of Actuaries show that life expectancy is falling in England and Wales. Actuaries say the decline began in 2010/11 as a ‘blip’ and has accelerated since to become a ‘trend’ and the biggest ever reduction in forecast longevity.

The Institute, which calculates life expectancy on behalf of the UK pension industry, now expects men in the UK aged 65 to die at 86.9 years on average, down from a previous estimate of 87.4 years. Women who reach 65 are forecast to live an average of 89.2 years – down from 89.7 years in 2018.

And the fall is accelerating – actuaries cut life expectancy in the UK by two months in 2018 and by six months this year – projections are down by 13 months for men and 14 months for women when compared with 2015.

This change is mirrored in other countries such as the US, where numbers released in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the US in its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War II.

So what’s going on? Analysts propose a number of reasons for this accelerating trend, many of which are within our remit to address, such as bad diet, lack of exercise, stress and mental health issues. Factors vary according to age and social group, meaning we must tackle this challenge on many fronts.

On page 34, we talk to Steven Ward, outgoing CEO of ukactive, which has broadened its remit to battle inactivity and other health issues in all populations. He says ukactive’s work on physical inactivity has become part of public health policy in the UK and that great strides have been made, but there’s still the opportunity to do more with sections of the population that are not being reached and who remain inactive.

As the industry seeks greater involvement with the delivery of health interventions via government and its agencies, we must ensure that our role in delivering on the ultimate positive outcome – healthy longevity – is recognised and that we are able to demonstrate this as a provable outcome.

Imagine if we could show beyond doubt that people of all ages – whether children or people in end of life care – are able to live better and longer – by all measures – if they live well?

At the moment, statistics related to lifestyle are not routinely monitored at an actuarial level, but current trends indicate that this may one day be possible, as more life insurance and pension businesses recognise the power of healthy living to reduce health risks and increasingly factor this in to their actuarial equations.

We must make it part of our mission to focus our energies on reversing this trend and be able to demonstrate the impact of our work on people of every age and social group when we do.

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/268790_619903.jpg
Life expectancy in some Western countries is declining – we must play our part in reversing this trend, says HCM editor Liz Terry
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