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Children born now face longer periods of ill-health in old age

But the present-day older generation are living healthier and for longer

Mark Gould

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Children born today are likely to spend a larger part of their lives in poor health than their grandparent’s generation, according to new data* from the Office for National Statistics.

They will also see substantially smaller increases in life expectancy than those born just a few years earlier, in the first decade of the 21st century.

But the ONS data also shown that those aged 65 are seeing their healthy life expectancy increase: men in England and Wales aged 65 have gained 31.5 weeks of life, and 33.5 weeks of healthy life, since 2009.

Women of the same age have gained 17.4 weeks of life and 23.3 weeks of healthy life over the same period.

In contrast, the proportion of life expected to be spent in good health in the UK has decreased between 2009-11 and 2016-18, from 79.9% to 79.5% for males and from 77.4% to 76.7% for females.

The data showed that Richmond-upon-Thames has the highest male healthy life expectancy at birth in the UK of almost 72 years; almost 19 years longer than men in Blackpool, who have a healthy life expectancy of just over 53 years.

In England, the lowest healthy life expectancy for baby girls is in Nottingham at just over 54 years. The highest healthy life expectancy for baby girls is in Wokingham at just over 72 years: a gap of 18 years.

Large gains previously seen in average UK life expectancy at birth have decreased since 2012, leading to years being knocked off official projections of children’s life expectancies.

Life expectancies are rising faster in London than in any other part of the country – increasing by almost six months between 2013 and 2015 – the research showed. But, nationwide, the life expectancy for babies increased by just 1.7 months for boys and 1.1 months for girls between 2011 and 2018.

This compares with the period between 2001 and 2006, when life expectancy across the UK grew by 12.3 months for boys and 9.3 months for girls.

“The size of the life expectancy gain between 2013 and 2018 is small by historical standards,” an ONS spokesperson told The Guardian. "A decade earlier, life expectancy was growing 6.5 times faster for males and 8.2 times faster for females. The trajectory observed in more recent periods suggests a slower rate of improvement in the future because of more recent mortality trends.”

Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation said the data showed that action must be taken to tackle child deprivation

“We as a society are failing our children and grandchildren disgracefully on intergenerational fairness grounds if we cannot give them the same healthy life prospects as enjoyed by older generations today, “she told The Guardian. “To change these outcomes we must end childhood deprivation in all its forms and that means prioritising funding for children.”

* Health state life expectancies, UK: 2016 to 2018. Office for National Statistics, 2019.

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