Covid sees life expectancy figure drop for men - and rise for women

The feet of a new baby wrapped in a blanket.

The feet of a new baby wrapped in a blanket. Life expectancy for men in Breckland has dropped, but has risen for women. - Credit: PA

Life expectancy for men in Breckland has fallen – while at the same time rising for women, figures reveal.

It broadly reflects the picture across the UK, where life expectancy for males has dropped for the first time since current records began.

Statisticians have blamed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but said the figures do not necessarily mean those born in recent years will go on to live a shorter life.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that in Breckland, a boy born between 2018 and 2020 is expected to live until they are 79.8 years old, down from 80.1 in 2015-17.

Meanwhile, life expectancy from birth for females rose from 83.5 to 84 between the two periods.


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Across the UK, a baby boy born in 2018-20 is expected to live until he is 79, down from 79.2 for the 2015-17 period, while a girl born in 2018-20 is estimated to live for 82.9 years, the same as in 2015-17.

The figures reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to a greater number of deaths than usual last year, the ONS said.

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Pamela Cobb, of the ONS centre for ageing and demography, said: “Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.

“However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020.

“Consequently, in the latest estimates, we see virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women, while for men life expectancy has fallen back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014.

“This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s.”

The ONS also said the figures did not necessarily mean a baby born between 2018 and 2020 will live a shorter life, with the estimates based on the "unusually high" levels of deaths.

“Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future," Ms Cobb added.

In the East of England, the figure fell by nine weeks to 80.2 years.

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