Life expectancy th gaps between local areas not widening
LONDON, Friday 25 October 2013 th Differences in life expectancy at age 65 between local areas in England and Wales have neither widened nor significantly narrowed over the past decade, according to Towers Watson's analysis of data published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday.
(Media-Newswire.com) - LONDON, Friday 25 October 2013 – Differences in life expectancy at age 65 between local areas in England and Wales have neither widened nor significantly narrowed over the past decade, according to Towers Watson’s analysis of data published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday.
The firm’s other observations on the new ONS data include: •The gap between female and male life expectancy has narrowed over the past 30 years. However, it is not clear that this should be expected to vanish altogether. In 184 out of 194 countries in the World Health Organisation’s database, females enjoy higher life expectancy than males. •Life expectancy at age 65 was the highest on record in 2010-12. However, this reflects the averaging of mortality rates over three years. Between 2011 and 2012, life expectancy at age 65 stayed the same for men and fell for women. •The ONS highlights a North-South divide in life expectancy. Differences within regions and within local areas can be as important as differences between them, so pension schemes cannot simply assume lower life expectancy for northern members regardless of where in the North they live. •Deliberately, the ONS does not assume any future improvements in mortality rates when calculating life expectancies or people’s chances of living to a particular age. If mortality rates continue to improve, life expectancies will be higher than these numbers imply.
Local area life expectancy – gaps not widening
The ONS has published estimates of life expectancy at 65 for local areas in England and Wales from 2000-02 to 2010-12. The improvement in life expectancy over this period is very similar whether we look at the 50 areas with the worst initial rankings or at the 50 areas with the best initial rankings.
Worst 50 ( 2000-02 ranking, average )
Best 50 ( 2000-02 ranking, average )
Male Life expectancy at 65 2000-02 14 years 11 months 17 years 7 months Male life expectancy at 65 2010-12 17 years 4 months 19 years 10 months Change in male life expectancy at 65 2 years 5 months 2 years 3 months Female life expectancy at 65 in 2000-02 18 years 0 months 20 years 8 months Female life expectancy at 65 in 2010-12 19 years 10 months 22 years 5 months Change in female life expectancy at 65 1 year 10 months 1 year 9 months
Note: all of the life expectancies published by the ONS yesterday and analysed here are calculated on the assumption that recent mortality rates do not change in future. It is widely expected that mortality rates will continue to improve. Allowing for that would make life expectancies look higher for all groups.
Matthew Fletcher, a senior consultant at Towers Watson said: “Life expectancy will never improve at the same rate in all parts of the country. On average, however, differences in life expectancy at 65 between local areas have stayed more or less the same over the past decade. If anything, the gap has narrowed very slightly – that’s the case whether you just compare the areas that were in the top or bottom 50 to begin with or if you look at the correlation between life expectancy at the start of the period and the improvement since for all local authorities.
“A superficial case for a widening gap is sometimes made by comparing the experience of the single area that is now top and the single area that is now bottom. However, this risks confusing cause and effect: Harrow would not have the best life expectancies for males at 65 today if it had not enjoyed strong improvements. You need to look at much more of the data before you can draw any firm conclusions.”
Shrinking gap in male/female life expectancy
The ONS says that male life expectancy at 65 in England and Wales has risen by 5.3 years over the 30 years to 2010-12, compared with 3.8 years for women.
Matthew Fletcher said: “Reasons why the gap has been shrinking include a steeper decline in smoking amongst men and the fact that much of the improvement in life expectancy has been driven by fewer deaths from heart disease, which affects a higher proportion of men than women.
“We would not, however, conclude that the gap between male and female life expectancy is likely to disappear altogether. In 184 out of 194 countries for which we have data, women live longer than men on average. As lifestyles vary a lot around the world, this suggests that part of the gap reflects characteristics that males and females are born with rather than just how they live their lives.”
Recent changes to life expectancy
The ONS averages mortality rates over three years. Life expectancy at 65 for 2010-12 is the highest yet recorded at 18.3 years for men and 20.9 for women.
Matthew Fletcher said: “Averaging mortality rates over three years avoids distortions caused by usually harsh winters or bad flu outbreaks but it also means recording improvements in life expectancy when the very latest data is going the other way. Life expectancy was higher in 2010-12 than in 2009-11 because 2012 mortality rates were lower than those for 2009. If you just compare 2012 with 2011, life expectancy at 65 has actually stayed the same for men and fallen for women.”
The ONS says its data shows a north-south divide in life expectancy, and that neither the North East nor Wales contributes any of the 20% of areas with the highest male life expectancy.
Matthew Fletcher said: “Pension schemes and insurers know that where people live can give an indication of how long they will live but there are big differences within regions and local areas as well as between them. You therefore need to drill down to postcode level – some postcodes at opposite ends of the country have more in common with each other than they do with postcodes a couple of miles away.”
Notes to editors
The data referred to came from two ONS media releases: Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in England and Wales ( 2010-12 ) and Interim Life Tables ( 2010-2012 ).International comparisons of male and female life expectancy are based on World Health Organisation data for life expectancy at 60 in 2011. The life expectancies published by the WHO are rounded to the nearest year. In 184 of the 194 countries, female life expectancy is higher than male life expectancy and in a further six it is the same.
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