Fewer Northern Ireland people staying healthy into old age, statistics suggest
There has been a dramatic fall in the average number of years a person in Northern Ireland can expect to live without a disability or persistent illness, according to figures released by the Department of Health.
While men are living a little longer on average, women's life expectancy has remained static.
The figures, part of the department's report on life expectancy, reveal that disability-free life expectancy has dropped by 4.6 years for women and three years for men.
Disability-free life expectancy is the average number of years a person can expect to live without a limiting, persistent illness or disability for 12 months or more, the department explained.
Men born between 2016 and 2018 can expect on average to be disability-free for 57.3 years, while the age for women is 57.2.
This compares to 60.3 years and 61.8 for the years 2012 to 2014, according to the report.
The department also gathered numbers for healthy life expectancy - the average number years a person can expect to live in 'very good' or 'good' health.
For women, it was 60.8 years in 2016 to 2018, down from 61.7, while for men it was 59.7, an increase of one year.
Overall, in 2016 to 2018 life expectancy in Northern Ireland was 82.4 years for women and 78.7 years for men.
Male life expectancy increased by 0.4 years from 2012 to 2014, while female life expectancy was similar to that recorded during the same period.
Over the timeframe, higher mortality among men for a range of cancer and circulatory causes contributed 2.8 years to the life expectancy gender gap. A further half a year was due to suicide.
"Female mortality from breast cancer and other causes offset the gap by 0.5 years," the report noted. "The 'other' category comprised higher mortality among females for mental and behavioural disorders.
"Decreased mortality rates among 60 to 89-year-olds contributed to the majority of the increase in male life expectancy over the period."
Reduced mortality from circulatory disease and cancer, among other causes, increased male life expectancy by 0.8 years, but this was offset by 0.4 years because of a rise in deaths from various causes, including digestive diseases and nervous system disorders.
Despite no significant improvement in female life expectancy between 2012 to 2014 and 2016 to 2018, there was a reduction in mortality among people aged 50 to 59.
Life expectancy at age 65 in 2016 to 2018 was 18.4 years for men and 20.7 years for women.
Over the last five years, there has been no significant change in life expectancy at 65 for females.
Male life expectancy at age 65 has increased by 0.3 years.
All figures were included in the Official Life Expectancy Figures for Northern Ireland.