Latest life expectancy figures ‘show clear geographical divide’

Latest life expectancy figures ‘show clear geographical divide’

There is a “clear geographical divide” in life expectancy between local communities in the north and the south of the country, new figures show.

Areas in southern England dominate the latest list for the highest life expectancy at birth, making up the entire top 10 for both males and females, while no areas in the south appear in the top 10 for the lowest life expectancy.

Most local areas have also seen a fall in estimated life expectancy at birth, with the reduction driven by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

They show that for a baby born in 2020 to 2022:

– Male life expectancy was highest in Hart in Hampshire, at 83.7 years, followed by Uttlesford in Essex (82.7 years), South Cambridgeshire (82.7 years) and Wokingham in Berkshire (82.5 years).

– Blackpool in Lancashire had the lowest male life expectancy (73.4 years), followed by Manchester (74.8 years), Hull (75.0 years) and Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire (75.2 years).

– Female life expectancy was highest in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea, at 86.3 years, ahead of Hart (86.1 years), Winchester in Hampshire (85.9 years) and South Hams in Devon (85.9 years).

– Blaenau Gwent in Wales had the lowest female life expectancy, at 78.9 years, followed by Blackpool (79.0 years), Manchester (79.2 years) and Liverpool (79.3 years).

HEALTH LifeExpectancy
(PA Graphics)

There was a gap of more than a decade between the local areas with the highest and lowest male life expectancy, and more than seven years between the top and bottom areas for female life expectancy.

Julie Stanborough, ONS deputy director of health and life events, said: “Although life expectancy has fallen across all regions and constituent countries, there is a clear geographical divide when it comes to areas with the best and worst outcomes.

“None of the 10 local areas with the highest life expectancy were located in the north of England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“By contrast, of the 10 local areas with the lowest life expectancy, none were in the south of England.”

The decrease in life expectancy during 2020 to 2022 has been “predominantly driven by the coronavirus pandemic”, which led to “increased mortality in 2020 and 2021”, she added.

Some 238 local areas across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (70% of the total) experienced a fall in male life expectancy at birth over the decade to 2020-2022, while 211 areas (62%) recorded a drop in female life expectancy.

HEALTH LifeExpectancy
(PA Graphics)

But a fall in life expectancy does not mean that a baby born between 2020 and 2022 will go on to live a shorter life that one born in earlier periods.

The average lifespan of a person is determined by changes in mortality rates across their lifetime, meaning that if rates improve, life expectancy will go back up, the ONS said.

Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund charity, which works to improve health and care in England, said the data showed “the yawning gap in life expectancy between some of the most and least deprived areas of England”.

While inequalities were widening before the pandemic, they have widened further due to “the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people living in deprived areas”, she added.

“Differences in life expectancy are driven by socio-economic inequalities, including levels of income, education, housing and employment, with people in more deprived areas having significantly shorter lives on average than people in less deprived areas.

“Bold strategies for reducing deadly risk factors such as smoking and obesity, earlier diagnosis and treatment of ill-health and a cross-government strategy for tackling the determinants of ill-health in poor communities should be top priorities – because behind these statistics are the devastating impacts they have on individuals, families, communities and society at large.”

The local area in England that saw the biggest drop in life expectancy for males between 2011-13 and 2020-22 is Boston in Lincolnshire (down 2.1 years), followed by Thurrock in Essex and Barnsley in South Yorkshire (both down 1.9 years).

The biggest fall for females was seen in Bolsover in Derbyshire and Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria (both down 1.8 years), followed by Barking & Dagenham in London (1.7 years).

Oxford saw the largest increase in life expectancy for males over this period (up 1.4 years), just ahead of Selby in North Yorkshire and West Devon (both also 1.4 years), while Ryedale in North Yorkshire saw the biggest rise for females (up 2.3 years), followed by Torridge in Devon (1.7 years) and North Devon (1.4).

In Wales, the largest drop for male life expectancy was in Wrexham (down 1.2 years) and for females it was in Merthyr Tydfil (down 1.4 years), while the biggest increases were in Monmouthshire (up 0.5 years) and Bridgend (0.6 years) respectively.

In Northern Ireland, only one local government district saw a decrease for males (Mid Ulster, down 0.1 years) while Belfast saw the largest fall for females (down 0.5 years), with the biggest increases seen in Lisburn & Castlereagh (up 1.1 years) and Antrim & Newtownabbey (0.5 years) respectively.