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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Improving UK mortality rates recorded

England and Wales recorded substantially less deaths in the first three quarters of this year than they did over the same period in 2018, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) has revealed.

Mortality improvements found ©iStock
Mortality improvements found ©iStock

The CMI’s latest quarterly figures also show that the cumulative improvement in mortality rates recorded so far in 2019 is higher than it has been for the previous 10 years.

Based on data from the Office for National Statistics, the CMI forecasts an annual improvement of 4.9% if the last quarter of this year corresponds with the final three months of 2018.

This comes after a decade of slowing mortality progress, with life expectancy increases since 2011 considerably lower than in the earlier part of this century.

Conor O’Reilly, head of analytics at Club Vita, said that it is now looking “increasingly likely” that 2019 will see the lowest deaths total recorded since 2014.

“Coming on the back of several years of relatively heavy mortality, this is welcome news,” he continued.

“What may be less welcome is the likely impact on liabilities – pension schemes adopting the latest CMI model could see their liabilities increasing by upwards of 1%.”

The CMI is owned by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), and provides life expectancy projection models for defined benefit pension schemes and insurance firms.

It found that the mortality improvement for this year reached a peak of 5.1% towards the end of April, before falling slightly to 4.9% in the final days of September.

Annual cumulative standardised mortality improvements since 2009 are shown below:

Source: CMI
Source: CMI

The latest findings suggest that the apparent trend of slowing mortality improvements in the England and Wales may be coming to an end.

However, an early flu season could derail the improvements recorded so far this year, with an outbreak traditionally most likely in colder months.

“We will be watching with interest to see whether this is the start of another period of strong improvements in mortality rates, as seen over the 2000s, or simply further volatility, as seen more recently," O'Reilly added.

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