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UK life expectancy among pensioners drops for first time in decades

There has been an 'unprecedented' rise in mortality rate, according to ONS data 

Chloe Farand
Saturday 01 April 2017 13:39 BST

Life expectancy in the UK has fallen for pensioners, ending a long-term upwards trend.

Updated projections from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries suggest life expectancy will fall by four months for a 65-year-old man and by six months for a woman of the same age.

Figures show that men aged 65 are anticipated to live a further 22.2 years, down from 22.8 years in 2013 and women a further 24.1 years, down from 25.1 years four years ago.

The data were compiled in the institute's Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) unit and supplied by the Office of National Statistics.

The analysis also shows that life expectancy of those aged 45 is also on the decline, with a further 42 years to live for men and 44 for women, down from respectively 43 and 45.1 in 2013.

The fall in life expectancy is due to a stall in improvements of mortality rates.

For the past few decades, there has been a very strong improvement in life expectancy in the UK, both at birth but also for 65-year-olds.

But that trend appears to have slowed down since 2011.

Stephen Caine, a senior consultant at the actuarial firm Willis Towers Watson, said: “Until recently, mortality rates in the UK were falling at an impressive pace. Since 2011, these improvements have stalled.

“An unprecedented uptick in the number of people dying in the UK each year has led to the CMI’s latest model revising down the projection of how long we will live.”

Mr Caine said there was a peak in mortality rates in 2015, which corresponds to an influenza outbreak, before improving slightly in 2016.

According to the actuarial firm Mercer, winter deaths of people aged 65 and over has increased by 11 per cent over the last two years.

More than 140,000 people over 65-years-old died this winter compared with 126,000 the previous year.

Glyn Bradley, Principal in Mercer’s Innovation, Policy and Research team, said: “There’s some debate about exactly why this has happened.Some point to the strain in the UK’s health and care system, caught between an ageing population and budget cuts. On the other hand, this winter’s excess mortality in the UK isn’t noticeably worse than for our European neighbours.”

But despite this “unprecedented” rise in UK deaths, the prediction model anticipates life expectancy to continue to progress but more likely at a slower rate compared with the first decade of the century.

CMI executive committee chair, James Tair, told The Actuary magazine: “The slowing raises important questions about contributing factors. Indeed, our analysis of pensions data implies that the causes could be more complex and stratified than the pure life expectancy figures, that only consider population data in aggregate alone, would suggest.”

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