A new report published by the Office of National Statistics has shown that for both sexes, the average amount of years lived in bad health has increased both in relative and in absolute terms, because life expectancy has risen more quickly than healthy life expectancy.
In the period of 2015 to 2017, men in the UK had a life expectancy of 79.2 years at birth while women could expect to live to 82.9 years. However, males could expect to live 63.1 years in good health -79.7% of their life - and females 63.6 years, which is just 76.7% of their life.
Since the last data was published, for males, the years spent in not good health has increased by 0.3 years, but for females it grew more substantially, by 0.7 years.
The number differs from place to place, however, with a gap as large as 21.5 years between the highest and lowest healthy life expectancy for women in various local authority areas across the UK. The equivalent figure for men is less, at just under 16 years.
Dave Finch, senior fellow at the Health Foundation, said the government “has outlined a mission to improve healthy life expectancy, so that by 2035 people enjoy at least five extra years in good health, while closing inequalities. But [the] ONS data shows that healthy life expectancy improvements are stalling and have actually fallen for women, illustrating the scale of the challenge.
“To start reversing these trends, cross-government action is urgently required to ensure people are able to live longer lives in good health. This should be underpinned by greater investment to address the social determinants that influence people’s health - including tackling poverty, access to affordable healthy food, well-designed transport systems, and the quality of housing, work and education.”