Covid NI: Life expectancy has fallen in parts of the UK, but continues to rise in Northern Ireland - why is life expectancy falling?

There are many factors that are currently influencing life expectancy throughout the UK, but Northern Ireland is the only region that has seen life expectancy consistently rise.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 5:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 5:26 pm

Life expectancy in the UK is making headlines after it was revealed that since 2010 it has began to decline in some areas, even before the pandemic struck.

The study published in The Lancet journal, reviewed all deaths in England between 2002 and 2019 and assessed life expectancy.

It discovered that while some areas experienced a rise, other areas actually saw it fall.

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Life expectancy for women in Northern Ireland has risen.

For those based in London and the South of England life expectancy rose, whereas people based in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool, saw overall life expectancy decline.

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But what about life expectancy in Northern Ireland and has it been impacted by the pandemic?

Life expectancy in Northern Ireland

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK which saw life expectancy rise for both genders.

Statistics now show life expectancy for people born between 2018 to 2020 is expected to be 78.7 years for men up from 78.4 and 82.4 years for women, up from 82.3.

This was not the case in other regions of the UK.

In England, life expectancy for men fell from 79.5 years in 2015-17 to 79.3 years in 2018-20, for women it stayed the same at 83.1 years.

In Wales life expectancy for men remained the same at 78.3, but for women it dropped from 82.3 to 82.1 years.

Scotland fared the worst out of all the areas of the UK, with life expectancy for men dropping from 77.0 to 76.8 and women from 81.1 to 81.

Aging population is rising alongside life expectancy

The aging population in Northern Ireland is growing, despite the pandemic, with statistics showing 39,500 people are now aged 85 and over.

Those over 85 years old are known as the 'oldest old' and numbers for this age group have grown six times faster, with a 28% increase.

Northern Ireland saw the percentage of oldest old rise more than any other area of the UK, with 28.1% against 20.6%, but it is drastically lower than the Republic of Ireland which saw a large rise of 44.6%.

The statistics also highlighted that Northern Ireland is currently home to 350 people aged over 100.

Why has life expectancy been falling?

The decline has been attributed to a variety of reasons including poverty, job opportunities, lack of healthcare and cuts to welfare support.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Ezzati from Imperial College London who carried out the study said "Declines in life expectancy used to be rare in wealthy countries like the UK, and happened when there were major adversities like wars and pandemics. For such declines to be seen in 'normal times' before the pandemic is alarming."

Researchers are calling for Westminster to invest now in the regionals most hit, to prevent further declines before an even greater divide establishes.

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