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Press release

Latest ONS data provides evidence of declining state of people’s health in England

Commenting on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on health state life expectancies between 2011–13 and 2020–22, Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said: 

‘The latest ONS data on healthy life expectancy provides graphic evidence of the declining state of people’s health in England, with healthy life expectancy falling by 9.3 months in males and 14 months in females between 2011–13 and 2020–22. As there had been minimal change in healthy life expectancy up to 2017–19, it’s likely that the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 will have contributed to this fall. It’s also likely that the delays in care for non-Covid conditions and an increase in long-term sickness following the pandemic will have been contributory factors.

‘This data comes on the heels of ONS figures showing that life expectancy in England has fallen back to its level of a decade ago. So not only has life expectancy stalled but more years are now spent in poor health. Currently, males and females spend almost one-quarter of their lives in poor health.

‘Today’s ONS data also lays bare the wide geographical inequalities in England, with healthy life expectancy in the North East being almost seven years shorter for males and six years shorter for females compared with the South East. This North–South divide in healthy life expectancy is the product of deep-seated socio-economic inequalities between different communities.

‘These figures illustrate the poor and declining state of child and adult health in England, which has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, and results in significant costs to society and the economy. Bolder measures to prevent and manage ill-health and help people live longer and healthier lives should be seen by the government as a sound investment and urgent priority, not just as another demand on the public exchequer.’

Notes to editors

A glossary of terms on life expectancy used by the ONS can be found here: Health state life expectancies in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - Office for National Statistics (

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

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