Life expectancy for men drops in the UK for first time in 40 years

23 September 2021, 18:45

The life expectancy of men in the UK has dropped.
The life expectancy of men in the UK has dropped. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The life expectancy for men in the UK has dropped for the first time in 40 years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

A boy born between 2018 and 2020 can expect to live until he is 79.0 years old - a drop from the previous 79.2 - the ONS explained.

The decrease is attributed to the rise in male deaths during the pandemic. Life expectancy for girls born in that period is unchanged at 82.9 years.

Comparable data on life expectancy begins in 1980-82, when a newly born male was expected to live for 70.8 years and a female 76.8 years.

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Pamela Cobb, of the ONS centre for ageing and demography, said: "Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.

"However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020.

"Consequently, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women, while for men life expectancy has fallen back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014.

"This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s."

However, the latest figures do not necessarily mean children born between 2018 and 2020 will live a shorter life.

Ms Cobb added: "These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone’s life.

"Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future."

Levels varied a lot among UK nations, with Scotland joining England in seeing a drop in male life expectancy while Northern Ireland saw a rise and Wales remained broadly unchanged.

For females, life expectancy dropped in Wales and Scotland but increased slightly in Northern Ireland.

Across England, the ONS said there were "significant reductions" in most regions, with falls of nearly four months in north-east England and Yorkshire/Humber, and of three months in the West Midlands and north-west England.