Marmot was born in London on 26 February 1945. When he was a young child, his family moved to Sydney in Australia, where he attended Sydney Boys High School (1957–1961) and graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree from the University of Sydney in 1968.
He earned a Master of Public Health in 1972 and a PhD in 1975 from the University of California, Berkeley for research into Acculturation and Coronary Heart Disease in Japanese Americans.
Currently Director of The UCL Institute of Health Equity, Marmot has led research groups on health inequalities for over 35 years. He was chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), which was set up by the World Health Organization in 2005, and produced "Closing the Gap in a Generation" in August 2008. He leads the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), and is engaged in several international research efforts on the social determinants of health. He served as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) from 2010 to 2011, and is the new President of the British Lung Foundation.
He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an honorary fellow of the British Academy, and an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution for six years and in 2000 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, for services to epidemiology and the understanding of health inequalities.
Marmot is a Foreign Associate Member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and a former vice-president of the Academia Europaea. Marmot served as president of the World Medical Association for 2015–16.
Marmot is a Vice-President of the Academia Europaea, a Foreign Associate Member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health set up by the World Health Organization in 2005. He won the Balzan Prize for Epidemiology in 2004, gave the Harveian Oration in 2006 and won the William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research in 2008. Marmot advises the WHO.
Marmot conducted ground-breaking studies of heart disease and stroke, comparing Japanese people in Japan (high stroke rates, low heart attack rates) with those in Hawaii and California, where, especially in later generations, the disease patterns became reversed after adopting lifestyle, stress and diet changes. He has more recently led the Whitehall Studies of British civil servants, again focusing on heart disease and other disease patterns. His department includes the MRC National Survey of Health & Development, a longitudinal study directed by Professor Michael Wadsworth of people born in Britain in 1946 and followed up since. There are 120 other academic staff in the department.
Marmot has a special interest in inequalities in health and their causes and has been a government advisor in seeking to identify ways to mitigate them. He served on the Scientific Advisory Group of the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health chaired by Sir Donald Acheson, the former UK chief medical officer. This reported in November 1998.
In The Status Syndrome: How your social standing directly affects your health and life expectancy, he argues that socio-economic position is an important determinant for health outcomes. This result holds even if we control for the effects of income, education and risk factors (such as smoking) on health. The causal pathway Marmot identifies concerns the psychic benefits of "being in control" of one's life. Autonomy in this sense is related to our socio-economic position. Based on comparative studies, Marmot argues that we can make our society more participatory and inclusive to increase overall public health.
In 2008, Marmot appeared in Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, an American documentary series examining the social determinants of health that drew heavily from Marmot's work on the Whitehall Studies. On 6 November 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson had asked Sir Michael Marmot to chair a Review of Health Inequalities in England to inform policy making to address health inequalities from 2010. The Review was announced at the launch of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health report Closing the Gap in a Generation.2012 Lifetime Award Fellowship Eur Academy of Occupational Health Psychology
2012 Patron of Medsin-UK
2012 European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Fellowship
2011 Ambuj Nath Bose Prize, Royal College of Physicians
2011 Medal of City of Lima, awarded by Mayor of Lima
2011 Sir Liam Donaldson Lecture and Medal, Health Protection Agency
2011 Fellow, Association for Psychological Medicine
2011 Avedis Donabedian International Foundation Award
2010 Manchester Doubleday Award, Manchester School of Medicine
2010 Jenner Medal, Royal Society of Medicine
2010–11 President, British Medical Association
2008 Tore Andersson Award in Epidemiological Research, Karolinska Institutet,
2008 William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research
2007 Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation Hero Award
2006 Winner BMA Book Awards 2006 (Public Health)
2006 Harveian Oration, Royal College of Physicians
2004 Balzan Prize for Epidemiology
2004 Alwyn Smith Prize Medal for distinguished service to public health, Faculty of Public Health
2004 Bisset Hawkins Medal, Royal College of Physicians
2003 Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge
2002 Decade of Behaviour Distinguished Speaker, Gerontological Society of America
2002 Patricia B Barchas Award, American Psychosomatic Society