Life expectancy in England falls to lowest level in a decade

Public Health England released its Health Profile for England 2021 report on Wednesday (16 September)

Thomas Kingsley
Thursday 16 September 2021 09:30
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Life expectancy in England has fallen to its lowest level since 2011, a Public Health England (PHE) report has said.

Deaths were 1.4 times higher than expected between 21 March 2020 and 2 July 2021, according to the report’s findings.

The increase, largely driven by the pandemic the report said, resulted in a life expectancy decrease of 1.3 years in males, to 78.7, and a 0.9 year decrease in females, to 82.7 years - the lowest life expectancy since 2011.

Life expectancy inequality is also widening between people in the most and least deprived areas. The gap in male life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas in England is 10.3 years in 2020, which is a year higher than the 2019 level.

Similarly for females, this same gap was 8.3 years in 2020, 0.6 years greater than in 2019.

The PHE report said the inequality gap reached its highest since it began recording data on deprivation linked life expectancy over two decades ago.

Its report stated: “This demonstrates that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in life expectancy by deprivation.

“Covid-19 was the cause of death that contributed most to the gap in 2020, however, higher mortality from heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases in deprived areas remained important contributors.”

Although coronavirus was the leading contributor to the increased gap, the report said higher mortality from heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases in deprived areas still remains key factors.

The report also found evidence that people with worsening health conditions between May 2020 and January 2021, did not seek treatment. The most common reason for this was to avoid putting pressure on the NHS and followed by fears around catching coronavirus.

Deaths related to dementia remained the main pre-existing health condition in over a quarter of deaths involving coronavirus between March and June 2020.

Elsewhere in the report, PHE said there had been an “unprecedented increase” in alcohol-related deaths, with alcohol-specific deaths increasing by 20 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.

In conclusion, PHE said: “The report has highlighted how the direct impact of Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected people from ethnic minority groups, people living in deprived areas, older people and those with pre-existing health conditions.

“There have been substantial indirect effects on children’s education and mental health, and on employment opportunities across the life course, but particularly for younger people working in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.

“In addition, it is clear that access and use of a range of health services has been disrupted during the pandemic and the long-term effects of this is not yet realised.”

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