There were 20,000 fewer deaths last year than would have been expected if the mortality rate hadnt improved by 4%, the Actuarial Profession revealed today.
Its analysis of the latest figures for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics found an upturn in the year-on-year improvement in the mortality rate in 2011. Last year's 4% improvement in the mortality rate compares to a 2.4% average improvement over the 10 years to 2010.
The Profession's Gordon Sharp said the past 20 years had seen 'unprecedented' improvements in mortality rates - in particular for pensioners. While the ONS figures used in the new analysis are initial estimates for 2011 and therefore subject to revision, he said: 'We are able to say with confidence that the mortality improvement for 2011 has been well above the average.'
In terms of gender differences, the Profession's analysis found a 4.1% improvement in the mortality rate for men in 2011, and 4.0% for women. This compares with 2.9%-a-year and 2.1%-a-year average improvements over the previous 10 years for men and women respectively.
Mr Sharp also highlighted the 'strong improvement' recorded again for the 'golden cohort' of people born around 1931. Their mortality rates improved by nearly 5% in 2011, the analysis found.
Last year marked the third year in a row where the total number of deaths in England and Wales was below 500,000, reaching just 484,000. In excess of 500,000 people died every year between 1953 and 2008.
Mr Sharp said mortality rates were particularly important when it came to considering the challenges posed by an ageing population.
'Mortality rates can vary significantly on a year to year basis and it is important not to read too much into one year's figures. However, as policy makers continue to look for solutions to the challenges faced by an ageing population, it has never been more important to ensure that mortality figures and trends are properly analysed,' he said.