Life expectancy for children in the UK falling

A new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that children’s life expectancies have been drastically reduced in United Kingdom. For example, a girl born now in 2019 would have three less birthdays than her older counterparts on an average.

Image Credit: Hyejin Kang / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Hyejin Kang / Shutterstock

If a girl was born in 2014, she was expected to live up to 93.6 years on an average but in 2019 the figures are 90.4 years says the ONS report. A boy born in 2019 is expected to have an average life span of 87.8 years according to the report. These numbers were 89.7 years and 91.1 years for him in 2016 and 2014 respectively. The average number of children who would likely reach the age of 100 years has also come down. Only 20.8 percent of the baby boys born this year would reach 100 and only 26.1 percent girls born this year would survive till they are 100. These numbers were 34.1 percent for boys and 40.2 percent for girls a couple of years back.

Experts have explained that it may not be true that life expectancies are coming down, but expectancy may have been overestimated before in earlier reports. Reports reveal that since 2011 there has been a rise in life expectancy, but this rise has reached a plateau since 2018 for the first time in three decades.

The ONS says, “There has been considerable public debate about the causes of the slowdown in life expectancy improvements. Researchers have suggested a range of possible explanations for the slowdown... several factors are at play, none of which can be singled out as being the most important with any certainty.” After release of these numbers, health agencies have geared up to look at the possible causes behind this decline. This includes the Public Health England and the Health Foundation think tank.
The PHE says that in the 20th century after the creation of the NHS there has been an improvement of life expectancy. There has been a fall in smoking rates and rise in vaccination and immunization of children, changes in lifestyle and health awareness, improvements in medical therapy. These have also contributed to reduction in number of deaths and improved the life expectancies.

This new report is titled “Past and projected period and cohort life tables, 2018-based, UK: 1981 to 2068,” which means that life expectancies of the past as well as estimations of the future are being made in the report for the UK and constituent countries.

The report further adds that in UK those aged 65 years can live for 19.9 years and 22 years on an average if they are men or women respectively. By 2043, these numbers are to become 22.2 years and 24.2 years on an average for 65-year-old men and women respectively. By year 2043 20.8 percent and 26.1 percent boys are likely to reach 100 years. This rise is 13.6 percent and 18.2 percent respectively for boys and girls born in 2018, write the report authors.  Compared to the numbers in 2016 the life expectancy is 2.6 years lower for boys and 2.7 years lower for girls in 2043, wrote the researchers. Authors wrote, “The high life expectancy variant, which assumes greater improvements in mortality in the long-term than the principal projection, projects cohort life expectancy to increase by 4.1 years to 96.3 years for males and by 3.6 years to 98.1 years for females in 25 years' time, in 2043.”

The report also looked at the “Period life expectancy”. They write, “Period life expectancy is calculated from mortality rates in a given year. As such, life expectancy is reflective of the past health environment in a geographical area.” Authors write that life expectancy has been on a steady decline since 2011. In 2043 the period life expectancy is likely to reach 82.6 years for men and 85.5 years for women, the team of researchers wrote. This is an increase of 2.6 years and 3.3 years in women and men respectively when compared to numbers in 2018. Since 2016 there has been a decline in period life expectancy because in 2016 the projected period life expectancy in 2043 was 83.7 years in men and 86.4 years in women. Thus, the difference between 2016 and 2018 projections are 1.1 years in men and 0.9 years in women. Similar differences have been noted between figures of 2014 and 2016 projections.

The report is prepared biennially for the UK based on estimations from future mortality from the national population projections (NPP). This new report is based on the data from the 2018 NPP and is published in 2019 October.

Journal reference:

Past and projected period and cohort life tables, 2018-based, UK Past and projected period and cohort life tables, 2018-based, UK: 1981 to 2068 - Life expectancy (eₓ), probability of dying (qₓ) and numbers surviving (lₓ) from the period and cohort life tables, past and projected, for the UK and constituent countries. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/bulletins/pastandprojecteddatafromtheperiodandcohortlifetables/1981to2068

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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