New statistics show increased inequality in life expectancy

By Agencies
March 28, 2019

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released new life expectancy statistics on 27 March 2019. Ben Humberstone, Deputy Director for Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS said:  “We’ve found a large fall in life expectancy at birth among women living in the most deprived areas in England when comparing the periods 2012 to 2014 and 2015 to 2017.

"This is in contrast to the continued increases in life expectancy for women living in the least deprived areas. This has led to a significant widening in the inequality in life expectancy at birth in England. Wales mirrored this pattern, although significant changes were not detected.

“Our wider analysis of mortality shows that life expectancy in the UK has stopped improving at the rate that was expected before 2011. We will be carrying out further work to analyse the factors contributing to this trend, including the impact of deprivation.”

The key points from the release are:

  • In England, the gap in life expectancy (LE) at birth between the least and most deprived areas was 9.4 years for males and 7.4 years for females in 2015 to 2017; for healthy life expectancy (HLE) it was 19.1 years and 18.8 years respectively.
  • In Wales, this gap in LE at birth was 9.0 years for males and 7.5 years for females in 2015 to 2017; for HLE it was 18.1 years and 19.4 years respectively.
  • Since 2012 to 2014, there have been statistically significant increases in the inequality in LE in England for males and females at birth and at age 65 years; the inequality in female LE at birth had the largest growth, rising by 0.5 years.
  • In England, the growth in the female inequality came from a statistically significant reduction in LE at birth of almost 100 days among females living in the most deprived areas between 2012 to 2014 and 2015 to 2017, together with an increase of 84 days in the least deprived areas.
  • In Wales, the females living in the most deprived areas were expected to live up to 11 years more in a poorer state of health than their least deprived areas counterparts.
  • In England, men resident in the least deprived areas could expect 13.3 years of good health from 65 years of age, but only 5.8 years if resident in the most deprived areas.

Commenting on the statistics, David Buck, Senior Fellow for Inequalities and Public Health at The King’s Fund, said: "It is truly shocking that female life expectancy at birth among the most deprived 10 per cent has fallen. It is an indictment of a lack of government focus and ambition on tackling health inequalities over a number of years, and is something we simply should not be seeing. It should act as a spur for the government to take action to reverse this decline.

"It is also unacceptable that the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived people in England has widened. While reducing health inequality is possible, this is only likely to happen if there is a cross-government effort over a long period of time. So far, there have been few signs of this happening, and so the government urgently needs to commit to improving the lives of the poorest people in our society."

* Read Health state life expectancies by national deprivation deciles, England and Wales: 2015 to 2017 here

* The King's Fund


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