Life expectancy drops due to Covid pandemic’s devastating impact, ONS finds

After 10 years of improvement, life expectancy in the UK has fallen for both men and women, driven mainly by Covid carnage.

The decline has led health experts to call for help to spot illnesses earlier and boosts in provision for the poor.

A boy born between 2020 and 2022 is expected to live until he is 78.6, while a girl born in that period is expected to reach an average of 82.6, the Office for National Statistics said.

Compared with 2017 to 2019, life expectancy has fallen by 38 weeks from 79.3 years for males and by 23 weeks from 83
years for females.

The ONS said the pandemic had led to increased mortality in 2020 and 2021, and the impact is now seen in the latest life expectancy estimates.

But the statisticians said this does not mean a baby born between 2020 and 2022 will live a shorter life, as life expectancy can increase as mortality rates improve over time.

Pamela Cobb from the ONS said: “After a decade of slowing life expectancy improvements, we’ve now seen life expectancy fall for both men and women.

“This decrease has been mainly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to increased mortality in 2020 and 2021.

“The average lifespan of a baby born today will be determined by changes in mortality across their lifetime.

“If mortality rates improve, then life expectancy will go back up.”

The latest estimates mean life expectancy at birth has returned to the same level it was for females born between 2010
and 2012

It is now slightly below the 2010 to 2012 level for males, the ONS said, noting that life expectancy improvements have been slow for the past decade.

The King’s Fund charity, which works to improve health and care in England, said the data “lays bare the impact that the pandemic has had on life expectancy in the UK”.

And it suggested a failure to bounce back following that period could point to “deeper problems with the health of the nation and the resilience of the health care system”.

The charity said: “Improving life expectancy in the UK will require a coherent cross-government strategy that supports people to make healthy choices, identifies and treats illness earlier, and reduces health inequalities by improving the health of people in deprived communities.”

England consistently has the highest life expectancy at birth for males and females, while Scotland has the lowest, the ONS said.

For babies born between 2020 to 2022 life expectancy was estimated to be 78.8 years for males and 82.8 years for females in England,

It is 78.4 years for males and 82.3 years for females in Northern Ireland, 77.9 years for males and 81.8 years for females in Wales and 76.5 years for males and 80.7 years for females in Scotland.

Increased mortality seen since the start of the pandemic has also led to a decline in life expectancy for older people, the ONS said.

For people aged 65 years between the years 2020 and 2022, this was estimated to be 18.3 years for males and 20.8 years for females in the UK.

The ONS said the estimates are approximately the same as estimates for people aged 65 in the period 2011 to 2013.

It describes life expectancy as a population-based statistical measure of the average number of years a person has before death.

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