Belfast Telegraph

Living in Northern Ireland is bad for your long-term health

By Anne Madden

People in England will live in good health three years longer than those in Northern Ireland.

The shock figures, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show that women in Northern Ireland have more years of ill health or disability than any other part of the UK.

Men in England can expect to live healthier for longer (63.5 years) than any other part of the UK. English men can expect to have three more years of good health than men in Northern Ireland (60.5 years) and Scotland, which ranked the lowest at 60.1 years.

ONS examined health expectancies at birth and at 65 across the UK for 2007-2009 to come up with their figures.

Across the UK, life expectancy has increased, but these statistics show that often many of these additional years of life are spent in poor health and dependency.

Men can expect to live to 76 and women to 81 years in Northern Ireland.

Dr Kevin Balanda, associate director of the Institute of Public Health, said the findings show some important differences in healthy life expectancies between Northern Ireland and Scotland on the one hand and England on the other.

“These statistics show that not only are people dying a little bit earlier, but their experience of life is poorer in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The reasons for the differences are complex and cover a variety of issues from healthcare provision, education and life chances. But it begs the question why should people in Northern Ireland spend much more time living with disability and poor health?

“The Northern Ireland Assembly and the Health Minister are committed to looking at these inequalities.

“In difficult economic times, we have to make sure we don’t exacerbate these inequalities further.”

Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society in Northern Ireland, said there is a serious issue of high levels of chronic ill health or disability that affects people’s quality of life in Northern Ireland.

“For some people their quality of life is as simple as being able to raise your hand to lift a mug to your lips yourself,” she said.

“We need more investment to help people with disabilities lead more independent lives.

“We have been working with district councils to put in place exercise classes to help people with MS maintain a healthy lifestyle.”


  • Across the UK men can expect to live in good health for 63 years compared to 65 years for women.
  • Healthy life expectancy was highest for men and women living in England (63.5 years and 65.5 years).
  • The proportion of life spent free from a chronic illness or disability was highest in Wales and lowest in Northern Ireland

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