Life expectancy gap widens

01 May 2019

Life expectancy in England and Wales has flatlined, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Health inequalities mean that there are stark differences in how long people can expect to live and how many of those years will be lived in good health, which have shown no sign of reducing over the past ten years. 

Health inequalities in England mean that people living in neighbourhoods experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage will, on average, die eight years younger, and will spend 18 and a half years more of their shortened life in poor health or with a disability.

Similarly, men and women living in the areas of Wales experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage spend 18 fewer years in good health than those in the most affluent areas.  

Inequality in life expectancy at birth between women living in the most and least disadvantaged areas of both England and Wales has widened.

In England alone, health inequalities cost the NHS around £5.5bn each year, and equate to around £20bn-£32bn in lost taxes and higher welfare.

John Hume, Chief Executive of People’s Health Trust, said: “The fact that inequalities in health persist and are still getting worse is shameful.

“Health inequalities are avoidable. We spend billions fixing people up when they are ill but we pay far less time and money preventing ill-health occurring in the first place. To tackle inequalities, we need to stop focussing on the behaviour of individuals and focus on the wider issues that help people live longer, healthier, happier lives. These are factors often outside of our control: where we are born, the quality of our homes and surroundings, our work and pay, and the connections we have in our communities.  

“We have put energy and resources into creating neighbourhoods and places for people to be healthy, well and happy.  We encourage resident-focused approaches as a means of addressing the underlying structural causes of health inequalities – and we support local people to have control of decisions that affect them. When people have more control over decisions and actions that affect their lives, they have a better chance of improving and maintaining their health.”

The ONS has said that their wider analysis of mortality shows that life expectancy in the UK has stopped improving at the rate that was expected before 2011. They will be carrying out further work to analyse the factors contributing to this trend, including the impact of disadvantage.

To read the full report, click here.

Read more about health inequalities here.  

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