The average life expectancy for people in Britain has risen again, according to official data. Both men and women have seen their predicted lifespans increase since the last announcement made by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) three years ago.
Now, men across the UK have a mean lifespan of 79.3 years, after the figures showed an increase of 7.4 weeks between 2015 and 2018. Women are also living longer than they were in 2015, with 4.6 weeks added to their average life expectancy, taking it to 82.9 years-of-age.
Despite such an announcement seeming like good news, life expectancy has actually slowed in its rate of growth since the turn of the century. Compared to other countries, the UK’s figures are actually improving more slowly than most wealthy nations.
Another finding of the report is that there is still a big gap between the life expectancy of those living in the south and other areas of the country. People in London outlive occupants of all other regions of the UK, with males in the capital expected to reach 80.7 and females 84.5.
Scots were found to have the lowest predicted lifespans and actually saw their numbers decrease instead of increase. Back in 2015, men north of the border had an average life expectancy three weeks higher than the 77.1 years they have now. And for Scottish women, it has gone down by 2.7 weeks to 81.1.
To put this in perspective, the gap between a Londoner and a Scot is 3.6 years for men and 3.4 years for women. This just shows how extremes at both ends of the scale can change overall averages for the whole nation.
A spokesman for the ONS told Mail Online: “There were reductions in the number of years lived in poorer states of health for both men and women at age 65 in Wales and England and for men in Northern Ireland. The size of the life expectancy gain between 2013 and 2018 is small by historical standards, but in line with the observed pattern of stalling improvements since 2011.
“A decade earlier, life expectancy was growing 6.5 times faster for males and 8.2 times faster for females. There were no significant changes in Wales and Scotland. The size of London’s gain continued to be notably larger than any other region.”
Experts have varying opinions on why improvements to life expectancy figures are slowing down in the UK. Some say it is to do with cuts to NHS funding and social care, while others suggest that alcohol and drug abuse are contributing factors.
According to the team who put together the report, the financial crash of 2008 could have had an impact on the falling life expectancies. They also pointed towards the flu epidemic of 2014 and 2015, which saw nearly 44,000 more people than usual die from the viral infection.
The current slowdown being experienced in England and Wales is the worst for more than four decades. Of course, it’s not just the length of a life that’s important, but also the quality of it, as many ailments are exacerbated in old age.