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Welsh women see drop in life expectancy

25 Sep 2021 2 minute read
An elderly person exercising outdoors

Life expectancy for women in Wales has dropped to a full year lower than a woman born in England, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Across the UK, life expectancy for men also dropped for the first time on record, ending a 40 year rise. The change is thought to be due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ONS figures compare a child born between 2018-2020 with those born between 2015-17.

In Wales, while life expectancy dropped slightly for women (82.3 to 82.1), it was unchanged for men (78.3 years).

There was also a notable difference in life expectancy between the different parts of the UK, with men and women in England enjoying a full year more than men and women in Wales and two to three years more than Scotland.

The data shows an average male life expectancy of 78.3 years in Wales, 79.3 years in England, 76.8 years in Scotland, and 78.7 years in Northern Ireland.

For women the numbers were 82.1 years in Wales, 83.1 years in England, 81.0 years in Scotland, and 82.4 years in Northern Ireland.

‘First time’

Pamela Cobb, of the ONS’s 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.”

But the drop in the figures is a reflection of the increase in overall mortality caused by the pandemic, she said.

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

“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.”

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