It is widely thought that lifespans are increasing globally. However, life expectancy has begun to stagnate in the UK, and is falling in more than 50 countries including the USA. Lifespan stagnation or decrease is a consequence of socioeconomic inequalities, lifestyle factors, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the UK, the National Health Service spends vast sums treating chronic diseases; by some estimates, 40% of its costs go to treating preventable conditions. UK citizens spend a fifth of their lives in poor health, and there is a 20-year difference in healthy life expectancy between the richest and the poorest, a difference that is widening, not narrowing. Together with unprecedented economic uncertainty, geopolitical strife, and post-pandemic recovery challenges, this burden of ill health is having a substantial impact on economic productivity and resilience.