People living longer, but are they living healthier?

Source : Press Association
Published on 25 July 2013 11:30 AM

An older couple walking together holding hands at a market.

There is a north-south divide when it comes to life expectancy in England and Wales.

Men are now living to an average age of 78.8 years, but this figure rises to as high as 83 in East Dorset and as low as 73.8 in Blackpool, Lancashire.

 

There is similar disparity for women too. Average female life expectancy is 82.8 years, but only 79.3 in Manchester - and 7.1 years higher (86.4) in East Dorset, which has the highest expectancy for both sexes.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on data from 2009-11. The previous figures from 2005-07 showed the average life expectancy of 81.7 years for women and 77.5 years for men.

The report stated: 'The gap between the local areas with the highest and lowest life expectancy was wider for males than for females but there was no significant change in this inequality between 2005-07 and 2009-11.

'The distribution of life expectancy across England was characterised by a north-south divide, with people in local areas in the north generally living shorter lives than those in the south.'

People living longer, but not necessarily in good health

But it is not all positive news, as less than a third of people are going to reach 65 in a healthy state, according to a discussion at the International Longevity Centre.

Gains in life expectancy have outstripped gains in healthy life expectancy, it claims, meaning more than two thirds of people in the UK could spend their retirement years in ill-health.

Professor Les Mayhew of Cass Business School said: 'The good news is that we are all living longer than previous generations. However, if policymakers fail to respond to the longevity challenge, taxes could increase, public spending including pensions could be squeezed and pressures for immigration could increase.

'Longevity needs to be managed if we are to protect living standards of future generations. While a bigger population leads to greater GDP, it does not necessarily translate into higher living standards. Part of the solution lies in re-calibrating our approach to health by recognising the importance of prevention and how health and social care are delivered.'

'More attention on social care is needed'

The debate on Longevity, health and public policy involved more than 100 delegates from Government, the media and public policy who discussed the challenges that can be presented by increased longevity.

Professor Michael Murphy of the London School of Economics, (LSE) reiterated the idea that while the figures show how much longer people may live, they do not show how healthy they will be.

'"Healthy ageing" is moving up the policy agenda but much remains to be done. Looking ahead, the balance of care needs will shift from acute to social care services and the focus of attention will shift from older people in general to the particular needs of the "oldest old"' he said.

Copyright Press Association 2013

 

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    Jane Vass has been Head of Public Policy at Age UK since 2012, having joined Age UK’s predecessor, Age Concern England as Financial Services Policy Adviser in 2006.

    She was previously an independent consumer consultant specialising in financial services from the consumer viewpoint. In this capacity she undertook research such as reports for the National Consumer Council on equity release and on financial capability for the Securities and Investments Board.

    She also wrote the Daily Mail Tax Guide for 10 years. She was a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel from 1999 to 2003, and from 1983 to 1993 she worked for Consumers’ Association.

    Jane was given an OBE for her services to financial services in the June 2015 Birthday Honours list.

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