Life expectancy and healthy ageing

Office for National Statistics (2010) Pension Trends, Chapter 3. Office for National Statistics. 25 June 2010. [ONS LS]

Other information:

  • In recent years, Parliament has passed legislation raising the State Pension Age (SPA). Women’s SPA began to rise in April 2010. Under current legislation, it will rise from 60 to 65 by 2020, when SPA will be the same for men and women. Then SPA for both sexes will rise to 68 by 2046.
  • Cohort life expectancy at SPA will decline for women over the next decade. Between 2021 and 2051 it is expected to level off for both sexes as planned increases in SPA match projected increases in life expectancy. Cohort life expectancy at SPA between 2021 and 2051 is projected to be around 25 years for women and under 23 years for men (Figure 3.1).
  • A related question is whether longer life expectancy is associated with longer healthy life expectancy in old age, allowing people to enjoy their retirement in good health. In 2006, UK men at age 65 had 17.2 years of period life expectancy and 12.9 years of healthy life expectancy, compared with 19.9 years and 14.5 years respectively for UK women (Figure 3.2).
  • Increases in healthy life expectancy at age 65 between 1981 and 2006 were smaller than increases in period life expectancy (Figure 3.3).
  • There are inequalities in period life expectancy estimates between social class groups (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). If the trend continues, people from the lowest social classes may experience declining life expectancy at SPA as the life expectancy of the ‘average person’ at SPA levels off in coming decades.
  • There is new evidence that healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy are closely related to levels of deprivation (Table 3.6).
  • In 2006, women in England had the highest life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at age 65, while men in Scotland had the lowest life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at age 65 (Table 3.7). Within England in 2007, women in the South West had the longest life expectancy at age 65 (Table 3.8).
  • As economically active people age, the percentage reporting a long term health problem or disability increases (Figure 3.10). It is hard to predict the health of future generations of older people, but there is evidence of trends for two health-related factors in recent years: there has been a decline in smoking (Figure 3.12) and an increase in obesity (Figure 3.14).

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