UK life expectancy at birth has fallen by more than 10 weeks since 2017, new analysis by longevity specialists Club Vita has uncovered.
Based on figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the findings show that UK life expectancy at birth was 79 years for men, and 82.9 years for women, between 2018 and 2020.
This represents a drop of 17 and 10 weeks for men and women, respectively, from what was recorded between 2017 and 2019.
The analysis also shows that life expectancy at age 65 was 18.5 years for men, and 21 years for women, between 2018 and 2020, a drop of 12 and 8 weeks, respectively.
Club Vita's findings are based on the first ONS national life tables to include data from during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Steven Baxter, head of innovation and development at Club Vita, said: “The inclusion of 2020 data will take account of the large number of COVID-19-related deaths, but won’t consider any 'bounce-back' to lower mortality levels that may be around the corner.
“Immediately after the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918, we saw life expectancy plummet, only to revert back to more normal levels the following year. We will need to keep a close eye on the emerging 2021 and 2022 data to see whether it will be a similar story following our generation’s one in 100-year global pandemic.”
The researchers also analysed separate ONS data, finding continued local inequality, with Glasgow City recording the lowest life expectancy at birth, on 73.1 years for men, and 78.3 years for women, for 2018-2020.
Even at the start of the millennium, the best-performing local areas exceeded this by six years. The current league toppers are Westminster for men, on 84.7 years, and Kensington & Chelsea for women, on 87.9 years.
Baxter warned that the pandemic risks widening these inequalities, adding: “There is growing evidence from monitoring of monthly deaths with our dataset, and in analysis from the ONS, that the second and third waves have had a disproportionate loss of life in the more deprived areas.”
Club Vita said that the outlook for pensions schemes is “finely balanced”, and that the lingering after-effects of the pandemic could have a greater influence on life expectancy, and therefore liabilities, than 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 deaths alone.
“There are factors which may cause pension schemes to be more pessimistic about the future, e.g. the economic impact of COVID-19 and the disruption to certain cancer cares,” explained Mark Sharkey, head of client delivery at Club Vita.
“But there are also reasons for optimism, e.g. the advances in mRNA technology with applications well beyond COVID-19. Those responsible for pension scheme risk management should be scanning the horizon for an early indication of which way the tide is turning.”
Image credit: iStock
Author: Chris Seekings