Men’s life expectancy has declined for the first time since records began, as higher-than-normal deaths due to the pandemic begin to weigh on national figures.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that boys born between 2018 and 2020 are expected to live to the age of 79.
This is a slight drop from the life expectancy of a boy born in 2015-17, who was expected to live to the age of 79.2 years.
Although women’s life expectancy remains unchanged, girls born in the last three years are expected to live 82.9 years, the same as the previous period.
The ONS said the figures reflect the impact of Covid, which led to more deaths than last year.
Life expectancy for both men and women had been increasing steadily since the ONS first began collecting comparable data in 1980–82.
Then, a newborn boy was expected to live 70.8 years, while a female would live an average of 76.8 years.
Pamela Cobb, from the ONS’s Center for Aging and Demography, said: “Life expectancy in the UK has increased over the past 40 years, albeit at a slower rate in the last decade.
“However, there were more deaths than usual in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As a result, in the latest estimates, we see almost no improvement in life expectancy for women, while life expectancy for men has fallen from 2012 to 2014 levels.
“This is the first time we’ve seen a decline comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s.”
However, statisticians insist that a drop in life expectancy does not mean that a child born last year is guaranteed a shorter life than his or her sibling born a few years earlier.
The slight decline in the figures is a reflection of an increase in the overall mortality rate caused by the pandemic, and this increase in the death rate will need to be sustained in the future to actually reduce everyone’s life expectancy eighty years from now.
“These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of one’s life,” Ms Cobb said.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic ends and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that the trend towards improving life expectancy will return in the future.”
There is also a slight difference in life expectancy between the four UK countries.
In Scotland, male life expectancy also fell from 77.0 to 76.8, and female life expectancy also saw a slight decline from 81.1 to 81.0.
However, in Northern Ireland, life expectancy for both men and women increased from 78.4 to 78.7 for men and from 82.3 to 82.4 for women.
In Wales, life expectancy for women decreased slightly (from 82.3 to 82.1) but was unchanged for men (78.3 years).
Past data from the ONS shows that around 80,000 more people died in England and Wales in 2020 than the average for the previous five years.
This figure, which is officially higher than the official COVID deaths, underscores the impact of the pandemic across society and the healthcare system beyond those who die directly from the virus.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /