England’s richest people are living for a decade longer than the poorest, and the life expectancy gap between them has widened an analysis of official data by the King’s Fund shows.
The difference in expected lifespan between the wealthiest and poorest areas has more than doubled since the early 2000s.
“There is a growing chasm in health inequalities revealed by the data,” said Veena Raleigh, a fellow at the think tank who specialises in the differentials in rich and poor people’s health. “Our analysis shows that life expectancy has continued to increase in wealthier areas but has virtually stagnated in deprived areas in the north with the result that the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest parts of the country has grown by almost two-and-a-half years over the last two decades.”
In well-off Westminster, male life expectancy rose from 77.3 to 84.7 years between 2001-03 and 2018-20 – a jump of 7.4 years. But men in deprived Blackpool only saw their expected longevity increase over the same period from 72 to 74.1 years, a rise of only 2.1 years. So overall the gap in life expectancy widened from 5.3 to 10.7 years in less than 20 years.
While life expectancy rose for women in Westminster from 82.3 to 87.1 years, among those in Blackpool it only edged up from 78.4 to 79 years, a rise of just 0.6 years. That means that the difference in expected lifespan more than doubled from 3.9 to 8.1 years.
In 2001-03 the gap was widest – at 8.2 years – between Hart in Hampshire and Manchester. But it is now the 10.7-year differential between Westminster and Blackpool. Similarly, the biggest gap in female life expectancy has widened from 6.6 years to the 8.9-year differential between women in Kensington and Chelsea in London and Blackpool.
Covid had led to the first fall in male life expectancy in the UK since records began 40 years ago. A boy born today is expected to live to 79, down from the 79.2 years when the ONS looked at life expectancy in 2015-17. Female life expectancy remains unchanged since then, with girls born today expected to live for 82.9 years, despite the pandemic.
Male and female life expectancy fell by 1.3 years and 0.9 years respectively in 2020 as a direct result of coronavirus.