Abstract

Abstract Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8) calls for sustainable economic growth, and this is essential for improving population health in developing countries. However, SDG8 also raises a vital and poorly addressed question for rich countries. Is it possible for population health to continue to improve rather than stagnate or even worsen over long periods of zero or low economic growth? The Preston curve, relating average income per person to life expectancy at one point in time, shows the association across countries is highly nonlinear, but does not assess the longitudinal relationship within countries. In the past decade of low growth and austerity, long-term increasing life expectancy trends in UK and USA have stalled. The reasons for the interruption in health improvement are disputed, and include increased socioeconomic and geographic inequalities, such as early disadvantage, and deaths of despair. If the pattern of low growth and stagnant health trends was repeated across rich countries, there would be reason for concern that continuing population health improvement was incompatible with an environmentally sustainable economy. The workshop will examine evidence from G7 countries on trends in health and health inequalities over the past 40 years. The headline health indicators are life expectancy, lifespan variation, all-cause and cause-specific mortality and self-rated health. The workshop will bring together recent findings from two distinct research networks, based in UK, Japan and Sweden. The research has been conducted independently, yet is highly complementary in respect of population health trends in the context of the SDG8 policy question: is it possible that rich countries could thrive, absent of economic growth? Key messages The relation between economic growth and population health is a vitally important consideration, as policy makers strive to meet climate change targets. Among G7 countries, recent trends in health and health inequalities are both adverse (USA, UK) and favourable (Japan) indicating that low growth can be compatible with improving population health.

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