Antibiotic resistance has caused a fall in life expectancy for the first time, the UK Office for National Statistics has said. Life expectancy in future years has been revised down after the statistics authority said that “less optimistic views” about the future had to be taken into account.
Opinions on “improvements in medical science” had declined, it said, and fears of the “re-emergence of existing diseases and increases in anti-microbial resistance” meant people would not live as long as was previously expected.
The ONS uses predictions about how medicine and science will improve to model how life expectancy will change. Under the projection made in 2010, a baby girl born in 2016 could expect to live 83.7 years. This has now been revised down to 82.9.
Life expectancy for babies born in 2060, the latest year which appears in both models, is now two years shorter than it was in the 2010 data. Baby girls born in that year were previously expected to live to 90.1 – this has now fallen to 88.3.
Baby boys are also set to live less long, with children born in 2016 expected to live to 79.2, instead of 79.9, and those born in 2060 expected to live to 85.7 instead of 86.8. The expectancies have been revised down before but this is the first time the ONS has said it believes resistance plays a part.
Experts have repeatedly warned of the dangers of antibiotic resistance, which could cause hundreds of diseases which are currently easily curable to become killers.
Anti-microbial resistance also includes the issue of viruses and funguses becoming resistance to antiviral and antifungal medication.
An increasing number of people with HIV have a version of the condition which is resistant to antiretroviral medication.
The NHS has previously warned that too many people are taking antibiotics for inappropriate conditions such as viruses, leading to greater resistance.
The World Health Organisation has said that the phenomenon is “one of the biggest threats to global health”.
Earlier this month it told farmers and the food industry to stop giving the medicines to healthy animals.