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Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 in England and Wales

Life expectancy at birth has been used as a measure of the health status of the population of England and Wales since the mid-nineteenth century. Recently published statistics from the UK Office for National Statistics show that the long-standing North-South divide in distribution of life expectancy across England continues, with people in the North of England generally living shorter lives than those living in the south.

Life Expectancy at Birth
Male life expectancy at birth was highest in East Dorset (82.9 years) and lowest in Blackpool (74.0 years). For females, life expectancy at birth was highest in Purbeck at 86.6 years and lowest in Manchester at 79.5 years. Life expectancy at birth increased across England and Wales by 1.3 years for males and 1.0 year for females between 2006–08 and 2010–12. This is part of a long-standing trend of improving life-expectancy, which is leading to a gradual increase in the average age of the population of England and Wales, and the elderly forming an increasing proportion of the population.

Life Expectancy at 65
Life expectancy at age 65 years of age was highest for men in Harrow, who were expected to live for an additional  20.9 years on average compared with 15.8 years for men in Manchester. For women at age 65, life expectancy was highest in Camden (23.8 years) and lowest in Blaenau Gwent (18.7 years). In 2010–12, approximately 28% of local areas in the East, 49% in the South East and 28% in the South West were in the 20% of areas with the highest male life expectancy at birth. In contrast, there was no local area in the North East and Wales in this group. A similar pattern was observed for females.

There are a number of explanations for the North-South divide in life expectancy, most importantly, socio-economic factors such as deprivation and lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet.

The figure to the top left shows life expectancy (LE) for males at birth by local authority district in England and Wales during the period 2010–12. This continuing divide in health status between the North and the South illustrates the need for a fairer funding formula for the NHS.

A shorter version of this blog post was published in the BMJ.


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