Report finds gap in life expectancy between least and most deprived areas in Wales is increasing
A new report from Public Health Wales has found that the gap in life expectancy between those living in the least and most deprived areas in Wales is increasing.
While inequalities in healthy life expectancy remain stable at 13.3 years for men and 16.9 years for women, the gap in how long someone can expect to live between the least and most deprived populations in Wales has been generally increasing in recent years for both males and females, suggestive of growing inequality.
The inequality gap was over a year greater for males than in females, increasing from 6.7 to 7.6 years, compared to 5.4 to 6.3 years for women.
The report that contains analysis of life expectancy and healthy life expectancy since 2011, has also identified a slight decrease in female life expectancy between 2018 -2020, the lowest it’s been since the reporting began.
Healthy life expectancy is the average life in good health, without incapacities or limitation of activity in daily life.
Life expectancy in Wales is 82 years for females and 78 years for males in this same time period.
The report’s authors note higher mortality rates in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic may account for some of the worsening life expectancy estimates seen in 2018-2020. However, a stalling in life expectancy improvement was previously reported prior to the pandemic as part of a previous study, Life expectancy and mortality in Wales 2020.
Some possible explanations cited for worsening health expectancies and widening inequalities include low wage growth, fuel poverty, food insecurity, and the period of austerity in Wales since 2010/11.
The recent rise in the cost of living is an additional pressure which may further increase inequalities in health expectancies as lower income households may not be able to afford basic necessities such as food and heating to maintain a decent standard of living.
Nathan Lester, Head of the Observatory & Cancer Analysis Team, Public Health Wales, said: “This data is critical for identifying these growing trends in inequalities early so they can be directly addressed in future policy decisions.
“This is more important than ever as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and deal with the cost of living crisis.”
Other key findings identified were:
- Healthy life expectancy was 62 years for females and 61 years for males in 2018-2020.
- Males spend more of their life in good health (78.5 per cent) compared to females (76 per cent).
- The gap in healthy life expectancy has remained relatively stable between 2011-2013 and 2018-2020 for males and females. The gap in females was over three and a half years larger than for males.
- While there have been some signs that the gap in males has decreased since 2015-2017, there was an increase in the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2.2 years for females over the same period.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales Frank Atherton said: “We want people in Wales to live long and healthy lives and we’ve put in place a number of progressive policies to achieve that ambition.
“This data tool shows the public health inequalities prevalent across Wales and it’s important we learn from them to address these issues for future generations.
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