Life expectancy at birth has declined across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from 2017-2019 to 2020-2022.
The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed regional differences. The male life expectancy in the South East was 80.1 years in 2020–2022, 3 years higher than the male life expectancy in the North East (77.2 years). Female life expectancy in the South West was found to be the greatest at 83.9 years, while the North East had the lowest, at 81.2 years.
Blackpool had the lowest male life expectancy (73.4 years) in 2020–2022, whereas Hart had the highest (83.7 years). The longest female life expectancy was 86.3 years in Kensington and Chelsea, while the lowest was 78.9 years in Blaenau Gwent.
Hargreaves Lansdown head of retirement analysis Helen Morrissey says: “After a long period of increasing life expectancy we are now seeing a dip. Life expectancy at birth is now lower in 2020-22 than it was in 2017-2019 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of course, the pandemic will have had an impact but only time will tell just how big it has been or whether we will see life expectancy continue to slow.
“The difference between male and female life expectancy is often discussed but drilling down into local area data shows shocking differences with life expectancy for a woman in Kensington and Chelsea almost 13 years longer than for a man in Blackpool.
“This shows the difficulties faced by a government trying to manage state pension costs. In a society where the number of centenarians is growing, we are also seeing people who will only claim state pension for a handful of years so increasing state pension age as a means of managing costs will prove a much more difficult choice than it ever was before.
“Healthy life expectancy also needs to be factored into this – not everyone will be able to work into their mid to late 60s. It shows that increasing state pension age is proving to be an increasingly blunt tool. State pension forms the backbone of our retirement income, and its long-term sustainability is vital in helping people to plan for their future.
“Knowing what you will receive and when is a critical part of overall pension planning and forms the basis on which you increase your own retirement savings whether that be through a workplace pension or SIPP to get the retirement you want.
“Managing state pension costs is a tricky balancing act for government and we need to see a stable path forward. We have long called for an overarching review of the state pension system to set this path and give people the confidence to plan ahead.”
Just Group group communications director at retirement specialist Stephen Lowe says: “The ONS data reveals the sharp geographic variations in life expectancy at birth throughout the UK. Of the ten local areas with the highest life expectancy, all 10 were in the South for females and nine were for men.
“It demonstrates the importance on our health of the communities and socio-economic circumstances of where people grow up and live from education and housing through to working conditions. People living in wealthier areas are more likely to live longer lives with key risk factors like smoking and obesity typically higher among more deprived demographics.
“It’s important that individuals don’t fixate on average life expectancy figures for retirement planning because the range of possible outcomes are so wide and the longer you live, the longer you are expected to live. Retirees must prepare for living long lives, living to around average age, or dying sooner. All three are realistic possibilities that need to be covered when retirement planning.”