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Press release

The King's Fund responds to the latest ONS life expectancy data

Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, responds to today’s data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on life expectancy for local areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 2001–03 to 2020–22:

‘Today’s ONS data shows the yawning gap in life expectancy between some of the most and least deprived areas of England.  

‘Life expectancy in males ranged from a high of 83.7 years in Hart in the South East to a low of 73.4 years in Blackpool in the North West. Female life expectancy ranged from a high of 86.3 years in Kensington and Chelsea in London to a low of 79 years in Blackpool. This shows a gap of more than a decade in male life expectancy and 7.3 years in female life expectancy between some of the least and most deprived areas in England.  

‘Differences in life expectancy are driven by socio-economic inequalities, including levels of income, education, housing and employment, with people in more deprived areas having significantly shorter lives on average than people in less deprived areas.    

Inequalities in life expectancy were widening before the pandemic, and have widened further because of the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people living in deprived areas. The long-standing north–south divide in life expectancy persists, with the more deprived communities of the North East and North West having the lowest life expectancy, and the less deprived populations of London and the South East having the highest. Even within these regions, life expectancy varies significantly by the level of deprivation.

‘Much of this heavy burden of sickness and death is caused by preventable conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, and hits deprived communities the hardest. Bold strategies for reducing deadly risk factors such as smoking (for example, the phased smoking ban) and obesity, earlier diagnosis and treatment of ill health, and a cross-government strategy for tackling the determinants of ill health in poor communities should be top priorities – because behind these statistics are the devastating impacts they have on individuals, families, communities and society at large.’

Notes to editors

  1. Period life expectancy at birth is a measure of the average number of years a newborn baby would live if the mortality rates in a specific period remain unchanged for the rest of the baby’s life. It is not a measure of the number of years a baby could actually expect to live, because mortality rates will change in the future. Actual life spans will be higher than life expectancy if mortality rates fall, and lower than life expectancy if mortality rates rise. Although it is a hypothetical summary measure of mortality in a given period, life expectancy is used widely for making comparisons between and within countries, and over time.

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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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