ONS report on avoidable mortality response: Less talking, more spending on prevention

According to new ONS statistics on avoidable mortality in 2019 in the UK released today, the number of avoidable deaths currently account for 22.5% of all deaths. Although falling since 2001 avoidable deaths have levelled somewhat and are barely changed from 2018. Today’s ONS release does not include the impact of COVID-19 deaths.

Prof Les Mayhew, Head of Global Research at the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), commented:

“These new statistics provide yet more evidence for what has already become all too apparent and is likely to be reinforced when COVID-deaths are added in next years figures. It is that the health and economic costs of failing to invest in prevention are too high to ignore.

Take avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease for which 50% are considered preventable. Whilst figures are greatly improved, our work shows that if it could be eliminated, life expectancy could be as much as 2 years higher.  

What we now need is to move beyond promises and pledges and instead see concrete spending commitments to prevention, especially for those most at risk.

In our previous research, we called for governments across the G20 to spend at least 6% of their health budgets on prevention, which currently is done only in Canada. However, given the prevalence of preventable disease it is clear that this now needs to be raised to a level closer to the 15% recommended by the APPG on Longevity.

Our latest report at the ILC, ‘Health matters: Why we must commit to delivering prevention’, finds that spending more per capita on health leads to an increase in the number of years lived in good health right across the G20.

But simply spending more isn’t enough. There are also huge local differences which point to avoidable health inequalities and so from a prevention perspective there is no one size that fits all.

We need to target health interventions at those who need it most, rather than simply extending healthy life expectancy for the wealthy. Our analysis finds that publicly financing health spending does just this by reducing out-of-pocket charges and therefore democratising access.

While spending more isn’t the only solution, it’s an important starting point for delivering meaningful joined up prevention strategies. What we can’t afford is to do nothing.”



For press queries, please contact press@ilcuk.org.uk or +44 (0)208 638 0832. Spokespeople are available for interview.


The ONS report, “Avoidable mortality in the UK: 2019” can be found here: Avoidable mortality in the UK – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

ILC’s, “Health matters: the case for prevention: Why we must commit to delivering prevention in an ageing world”, report can be found here: https://ilcuk.org.uk/health-matters-why-me-must-committ-to-delivering-prevention-in-an-ageing-world/

As part of their “Delivering prevention in an ageing world” programme, which seeks to encourage governments across the world to invest in preventative health and tackle inequalities in access to health, ILC is hosting three expert roundtables in March and April 2021 on how to deliver prevention across our three pillars: democratising access; inspiring and engaging; and using technology effectively. If you are interested in joining these roundtables, please email Liam Hanson.

About ILC

The ILC is the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, and what happens next.

The International Longevity Centre UK was established in 1997 as one of the members of the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, an international network on longevity.

Since our inception, we have published over 250 reports, organised over 300 events including the annual Future of Ageing conference.

We work with central government, local government, the private sector, and professional and academic associations to provoke conversations and pioneer solutions for a society where everyone can thrive, regardless of age.