Male life expectancy down for first recorded time in UK – but females unaffected

According to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average life expectancy for men in the UK has fallen for the first time since records began.

According to the ONS, this is due to a greater number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK’s life expectancy has increased steadily since 1980, when the ONS started collecting data.

The latest data shows that a boy born between 2018-2020 is likely to live until he’s 79 years.

This is lower than the 79.2 expected years for those born in 2015 and 2017, marking the first decrease in 40 years.

Now, male life expectancy matches those of 2012-2014.

Female doctor in protective suit taking sample for swab test of senior man
The ONS says a higher numbers of deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic is a key factor of this

Despite this, female life expectancy remains ‘virtually’ unchanged at just below 83.

Pamela Cobb, from the ONS’s Centre for Ageing and Demography, said: “Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.

“However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020.

“Consequently, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women compared to 2015 to 2017 at 82.9 years, while for men life expectancy has fallen back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014, at 79 years.

“This is the first time that we have seen a decrease in non-overlapping periods of time since the series started in the 1980s.

“These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone’s life.

“If the coronavirus pandemic ends and future mortality consequences are known, then it is possible for life expectancy to return to an improving trend.”

There are slight variations between the UK’s four nations, with male life expectancy in Scotland falling from 77 to 76.8 and female life expectancy from 81.1 to 81.

Meanwhile in Wales, life expectancy for women dropped from 82.3 to 82.1, but remained unchanged for men at 78.3 years.

In Northern Ireland, life expectancy for both men and women both rose – from 78.4 to 78.7 for the former, and from 82.3 to 82.4 for the latter.

Christine Jeavans, a data journalist for BBC News, commented on the news, explaining life expectancy at birth doesn’t predict an “actual lifespan”.

Instead, she says it shows “the average age a newborn would live to if current death rates continued for their whole life”.

She commented: “As Covid death rates are unlikely to continue long-term, today’s estimates do not mean a boy born in 2020 will have a shorter life than one born in 2019.”

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