THE Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest data on life expectancy in the UK. Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2020 to 2022 was 78.6 years for males and 82.6 years for females. Compared with 2017 to 2019, life expectancy has fallen by 38 weeks for males and by 23 weeks for females.

Over the last 40 years, life expectancy in the UK has generally been increasing, primarily because of reductions in mortality at older ages driven by advances in health care, and improvements in living and working conditions. Since approximately 2011, the rate of increase in life expectancy has slowed, and in 2020 to 2022 fell to approximately the level of a decade earlier (2010 to 2012) for both males and females.

Commenting on the new data, David Finch, Assistant Director at the Health Foundation, said: “Today’s release serves as a reminder of the UK’s long-term life expectancy challenge. A fall in life expectancy by 38 weeks for males and 23 weeks for females between 2020–22 and 2017–19 reflects higher than average mortality due to Covid-19. The release also highlights the historically weak improvement in life expectancy pre-pandemic. While high Covid-19 mortality rates are behind us, the main question is now the pace of future improvement and whether the unacceptable gap in life expectancy between richest and poorest areas can be closed.

“The current and incoming governments face an uphill challenge in improving UK citizens’ health – and life expectancy. Good health and well-being are the UK’s most precious assets – they enable people to achieve their potential, fuel the economy and help build a stronger society. However, the weak income growth, pressure on diminished public services, and strain on the NHS offer a bleak picture of future life expectancy. Improving health needs long-term cross-government action – across the building blocks of health, such as good-quality jobs and housing, as well as wider public services.”

* Sources: Office for National Statistics  and The Health Foundation