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26 April 2022

How deprivation fuels the life expectancy gap

Those living in England’s most deprived areas live almost a decade less than those in the least deprived.

By Katharine Swindells

People living in England’s most deprived areas lose as much as ten years in life expectancy, compared with those living in the country’s least deprived areas.

New data released by the Office for National Statistics found that in neighbourhoods in the top 10 per cent in England for deprivation, the life expectancy at birth is 78.3 years for women, and 73.5 years for men. By comparison, women in the country’s least deprived areas gain eight years in life expectancy at birth, and men gain 9.7 years.

Globally, women tend to have a longer life expectancy than men, a fact attributed to a number of issues including genetic differences as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and poor working conditions.

But wealthier areas see this gender gap narrow: in the country’s most deprived areas, women have an additional five years of life expectancy, whereas in the least deprived third of the country, that gap closes to around three years.

There have been significant decreases in life expectancy in recent years, particularly in the most deprived areas. This is attributed to Covid-19, with the poorest areas in the country experiencing the highest death rates during the pandemic.

In the most deprived decile in England, male life expectancy at birth has decreased by six months compared with the 2015/17 calculations, and female life expectancy has decreased by 4.8 months.

In the wealthiest half of the country, however, male life expectancy has decreased by just 1.2 months, and female life expectancy has in fact increased by two months.

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