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Inequality in babies' life expectancy widens amid North-South split

Published 04/11/2015

Statisticians have been looking at the life expectancy of newborn babies
Statisticians have been looking at the life expectancy of newborn babies

Inequality in the life expectancy of babies born in different parts of the UK has grown by almost half a year since the start of the century, new figures show.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows t he gap between the extremes for newborn boys in England and Wales has gone up from 8.2 years in 2000-02 to 8.6 years in 2012-14. The gap for girls has also increased from 6.5 years to 6.9 years over the same period.

The report found boys born in Kensington and Chelsea and girls born in Chiltern district in Buckinghamshire are expected to live the longest in the country, while boys born in Blackpool and girls born in Middlesbrough will live decidedly shorter lives.

In the three-year period analysed, inequality between the local areas with the highest and lowest life expectancy at birth was greater for boys than girls, with b aby boys born in Kensington and Chelsea expected to live almost nine years longer than those in Blackpool.

For the over-65s the split was even more pronounced, with the gap increasing from 4.8 to 5.7 years for men, and from five to 5.8 years for women.

A separate set of figures showing life expectancy rates for men over 65 revealed that those in Kensington and Chelsea have a five-and-a-half-year advantage over those living in Manchester. There was a fairly similar level of inequality between areas for both genders.

Overall, life expectancy has steadily increased for both men and women for almost a quarter of a century.

In England, life expectancy at birth for boys increased by almost six years - from 73.7 years in 1991 to 1993, to 79.5 years in 2012 to 2014. Baby girls have seen a slightly smaller increase of 4.1 years, over the same period, from 79.1 to 83.2 years. Babies of both sexes in Wales also saw a small increase.

Life expectancy has accelerated faster for boys, causing the gap between male and female life expectancy at birth to shrink, with girls living an average of 3.7 years longer than boys, compared to 5.4 years in 1991 to 1993.

Areas where boys' life expectancy soared fastest were London, the North East and the North West.

The figures also reveal a regional divide, with the majority of the 50 areas with the lowest life expectancy at birth in the North East, the North West and Wales. A total of 68 % of areas in the bottom 50 for boys and 70% for girls were in these regions.

The top 50 local areas with the highest male life expectancy at birth were in the South East, East of England, South West, London and East Midlands. Out of the top 50 areas for highest life expectancy for females, only two were in the North of the country.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people's charity, said the figures showed a "persistent, deep-seated North-South divide in older people's life expectancy".

She said: "For example, in Kensington and Chelsea men aged 65 can expect to live a further 21.6 years and women a further 23.8 years. But in Manchester men can expect to live for just a further 15.9 years and women 18.8 years.

"We know that poverty and poor housing are linked to lower life expectancy, as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity, drinking and smoking. So it is alarming that the Government has cut £200 million from this year's public health budgets - money that councils could have used to tackle exactly these types of problems."

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