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UK life expectancy at birth falls by half a year

UK life expectancy at birth falls by half a year
By Jess Hacker
11 January 2024

Life expectancy at birth fell by about half a year between 2019 and 2022, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.

In 2020 to 2022, life expectancy at birth stood at 78.6 years for men and 82.6 years for women, down by 38 weeks (79.3 years) and 23 weeks (83 years) for men and women respectively in 2017 to 2019.

In the stat bulletin, published today (11 January), the ONS said life expectancy improvements had been ‘slow for the last decade’, noting that the latest estimates at birth are back to the same level as 2010 to 2012 for women and slightly below that level for men.

Additionally, data indicated that life expectancy at age 65 years in the UK in 2020 to 2022 was 18.3 years for males and 20.8 years for females. This marked a fall of 22 weeks for men and 15 weeks for women in 2017 to 2019.

Commenting on the figures, Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: ‘Although life expectancy has recovered somewhat since the sharp fall in 2020 when the pandemic struck, it’s not had the bounce back that might have been expected once the worst of the pandemic was over, pointing to deeper problems with the health of the nation and the resilience of the health care system.’

She added: ‘Much of the heavy burden of sickness and death in the UK is caused by preventable conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and diabetes. Worryingly, mortality rates from heart disease and diabetes have been rising during the pandemic. This load of preventable sickness and death falls unequally, hitting deprived communities the hardest. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

‘Improving life expectancy in the UK will require a coherent cross-government strategy that supports people to make healthy choices, identifies and treats illness earlier, and reduces health inequalities by improving the health of people in deprived communities.’

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