Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's over-85 population growing by 900 a year

Life expectancy rise sees big surge in number of over-85s

By Victoria Leonard

The number of Northern Ireland residents aged 85 and over has grown by around 900 per year over the past decade, and now represents 2% of the population.

Figures published yesterday by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that there are 36,500 in the 85-plus age group.

The growth rate in this population is almost six times that of the under-85s.

While women still account for two-thirds of that age group, the number of male octogenarians is increasing at almost twice the rate of females.

Derry and Strabane has the lowest population of residents aged 85 and over, with 2,100 people (1.4%).

At the other end of the scale, Ards and North Down has the highest, at 3,900 (2.4%). However, Northern Ireland continues to have the lowest proportion of people aged 85 and over of any UK region.

Meanwhile, a separate study released by the Department of Health yesterday showed that men in our most deprived areas die seven years younger than those in more affluent areas.

The statistics also reveal that women in the least deprived areas live nearly five years longer than their counterparts in poorer areas.

The average life expectancy across Northern Ireland stands at 78.3 years for men and 82.3 years for women.

While males living in the least deprived areas could expect to live to 81.1 years, those in the most deprived areas have a significantly lower life expectancy of 74.1 years.

Similarly, women in Northern Ireland's poorest areas have a life expectancy of 79.4 years - 20% lower than the 84.1 years enjoyed by those in the least deprived areas.

Meanwhile, men living in rural areas can expect to live 2.8 years longer than their urban counterparts. For women, those in rural areas can expect to live 2.2 years longer.

Both male and female residents of Lisburn and Castlereagh can look forward to the highest life expectancy in the province at 79.9 years and 83.3 years respectively.

However, it's bad news for Belfast, which has the lowest life expectancy at 75.9 years for men and 81 years for women.

Overall, life expectancy here has increased by 0.9 years for males and 0.4 years for females over the last five years.

Men in Northern Ireland have a lifespan that is 1.1 years shorter than their counterparts in England due to higher mortality from cancer and suicide.

Women in Northern Ireland are expected to die around a year younger than their counterparts in England and in the Republic, with the shorter life expectancy attributed to cancer, maternal and infant conditions, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

A Department of Health spokesman said the aging population "presents a huge and growing challenge in terms of the demands and pressures on health and social care services".

He said it has started work on an ambitious programme of work to transform health and social care services over the next 10 years.

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