Growth in life expectancy in the UK has come to a halt, new figures show. A girl born between 2015 and 2017 is expected to live until 82.9 years old – no change on the previous figure for 2014-16, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figure for baby boys born in 2015-17 is also unchanged, at 79.2 years.
Life expectancy in some parts of the UK has actually decreased. For males and females in Scotland and Wales it has declined by 0.1 years, while males in Northern Ireland have seen a similar fall. For females in Northern Ireland, and for males and females in England, life expectancy at birth is unchanged.
Sophie Sanders, of the ONS Centre for Ageing and Demography, said the figures represented “the lowest improvements in life expectancy since the start of the series in 1980 to 1982”.
“This slowing in improvements is reflected in the chances of surviving to age 90 years from birth, which has also seen virtually no improvement since 2012 to 2014,” she added.
Life expectancy in the UK remains lower than in many other comparable countries internationally, the ONS also found.
The figures were described as “concerning” by Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity.
“More must be done to understand what is driving this,” she said. “These figures starkly highlight the need for health and care services to adapt to our ageing population, and the government must ensure that these services can support people to live long, healthy, happy lives.”
Of the four nations in the UK, Scotland has the lowest life expectancy for a baby born in 2015-17, with 77.0 years for males and 81.1 years for females. England has the highest life expectancy: 79.5 years for males and 83.1 years for females. The figures for Northern Ireland are 78.4 for males and 82.3 for females, and for Wales the numbers are 78.3 for males and 82.3 for females.
There is no simple answer to why growth in life expectancy has stalled, the ONS suggests. But it notes there has been a “significant” slowdown in improving mortality rates. The three-year period from 2015 to 2017 saw particularly high numbers of deaths across the UK in comparison with the years before.
In England and Wales, 2015 saw the largest annual percentage increase in deaths since 1968 – a rise that coincided with the peak in flu activity for the 2014/15 season. In 2016, deaths were slightly lower but remained high in comparison with the majority of the 2000s. And in 2017, deaths spiked again as the highest number of deaths were registered in England and Wales since 2003.