ILC-UK response to new ONS statistics on life expectancy

Responding to new ONS Health state life expectancies statistics released today, David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), argued:

“This new evidence paints a dismal picture of limited progress in improving healthy life expectancy in the UK. In fact, healthy life expectancy at birth has fallen significantly for women between 2017 to 2019 compared with 2014 to 2016.

The Government’s ambitious target of achieving five “extra” healthy, independent years of life for all by 2035 looks and feels even less achievable than it did when it was conceived almost three years ago.

A growing older population could mean more older workers, more older consumers and more older people contributing to society through volunteering and caring. There really could be a longevity dividend for us all.

But the UK’s healthy life expectancy at birth is now 62.9 compared with a state pension age of 66. We know that a million workers aged between 50 and 64 are already forced out of the labour market early due to health and care needs or caring responsibilities. If we don’t address the healthy ageing challenge, this situation will only get worse, hitting those who can’t afford it hardest.

There was a statistically significant increase in healthy life expectancy at age 65 years for men across the UK. But it’s only a relatively tiny increase compared to the ambition of the Government’s target. And the increase masks significant inequalities across the UK.

The pandemic has shown us first-hand that failing to support people to lead healthy as well as longer lives not only robs people’s quality of life, but overwhelms our NHS and cripples our economy.

We simply can’t keep running behind. We know that there is so much, from vaccines to early detection and management of disease that can support people to live healthier lives, but for too long preventative services in health have been the first to be cut and the last to receive investment. In an ageing world, this needs to change.

One of the big lessons from COVID-19 is that the costs of failing to invest in preventative interventions are simply too high to ignore.”



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Health state life expectancies, UK: 2017 to 2019 has been published today by the ONS:

ILC’s Delivering Prevention in an ageing world programme seeks to encourage governments across the world to invest in preventative health and tackle inequalities in access to health.

ILC’s Work for tomorrow programme, supported by the Innovation Resource Center for Human Resources (IRC4HR), seeks to identify the challenges and innovations that respond to an ageing workforce through a global innovations competition.