Death rates are up in England and Wales reaching more than half a million during 2013, official figures have revealed today
30 JANUARY 2014 | BY JUDITH UGWUMADU
The number of deaths recorded was 505,675 last year, compared to the 498,281 registered in 2012.
Actuaries Towers Watson said 2013 was the second successive year in which 'mortality rates' have not improved. This means the number of deaths exceeded what had been anticipated by pension schemes and in official projections.
Matthew Fletcher, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said: 'Although more people died in 2013 than in 2012, the number of deaths is consistent with mortality rates staying more or less the same. It looks as though there may have been a fractional improvement, of less than 0.1%. [But] this is a long way short of the 2-3% annual improvements that were typical during the 1990s and 2000s.'
Increased death numbers have been attributed to an unusually late cold period and a prolonged influenza episode in the first half of 2013. Public Health England has previously found that influenza was a major factor behind the high number of deaths in the 2012/13 winter, Towers Watson said. As such, the first half of 2013 saw around 11,500 more deaths registered compared to the same period in 2012 but there were around 4,100 fewer deaths between July and December, Towers Watson said.
In 2012, there was no overall improvement in mortality rates for men, while female mortality rates actually got worse, Towers Watson said. In November, ONS figures assumed that mortality rates for women aged 83 and over, and for men aged 86 and over would worsen in future years. This suggests that pensioners in their 80s have slightly less chance of living into their 90s and beyond, compared to previous years.
The firm said 2013 was the first year since 2008 when there were more than a half a million deaths registered. English and Welsh death registration offices were notified of: 507,829 deaths in 2008; 490,247 in 2009; 492,214 in 2010; and 483,288 in 2011.
Fletcher added that mortality rates do not improve in a straight line and data has to be averaged out over a number of years for a clear picture to emerge.
'When pension schemes next revisit their assumptions, an important question to consider will be whether what happened in 2012 and 2013 was just a blip or whether it could mark the end of an era of fast improvements in mortality rates,' he said.
'Many pension schemes and their sponsoring employers would rather know where they stand. We expect those who place a premium on certainty to continue exploring whether the risk of having to pay out pensions for longer than they are budgeting for can be passed to a third party at an acceptable price.'
But he added that, the further into the future one tries to look, the more uncertain life expectancy becomes.