My role


Will men live as long as women?

The MHF welcomes the publication shortly of new research on life-expectancy from Professor Les Mayhew of the Cass Business School, an adviser to the Office for National Statistics.

Mayhew’s research has been heavily trailed in the media ahead of publication because his findings are expected to show that by 2030 male and female life-expectancy in England and Wales for those aged 30 will be pretty much the same - about 87 years.

The research will be published in May on the Cass web site. Professor Mayhew says that a paper on the methodology has also been accepted by the journal Population Studies.

Over recent years male life expectancy has been increasing at a more rapid rate than female life expectancy. Clearly if this continues it is reasonable to assume that life-expectancies will eventually converge.

MHF CEO Peter Baker said: ‘We’re looking forward to reading the full study. It’s exciting and gratifying to know that the work of governments, organisations like ours and many others could be having the desired effect.’

Inside the figures

However, the Forum also counseled against jumping to conclusions. 'As we're always being warned, past results are no indication of future performance,' said Peter. 'It will fascinating to look at this material in context alongside other reports projecting, for example, increases in diabetes or obesity and alongside evidence that female health expectancy may be increasing less rapidly than before because women are adopting unhealthy habits previously more common in men.

‘We also need to look inside the headline figures. We’re already seeing today how overall increases in male life-expectancy mask massive inequalities between regions and between men from different social backgrounds. The trends suggest these may be exacerbated over the years.

‘One of the real challenges between now and 2030 will be how to continue the good work. In the 15 years of serious men’s health campaigning in this country, we’ve picked the low hanging fruit. One of the big drivers of increased male life-expectancy has been reduced male smoking but now that so many men have given up what will be the next big driver?’

Nor is health just about life-expectancy. Peter said: ‘It will also be important to look at the quality of those additional years not just the quantity. There is evidence that we’re living longer in poorer health. All this suggests that rather than being less busy the Men’s Health Forum may be even busier in the future.’

The prediction business is enormously difficult. Have a look at any science fiction and you’ll see how very wrong we were 20-30 years ago about how life would be now. Space 1999 anyone?

In the 1970s, projections would have suggested that by today male and female salaries would be equal. They are not. Or that there’d be as many state school pupils at university (or indeed in parliament) as public school pupils. There is not. Public policy changed and outcomes were different. Similarly, public health policy rather than statistical inevitability will be what determines male and female life expectancy in 2030 and beyond.

  • Look out for a full report when the paper is published.

Page created on April 27th, 2012

Page updated on April 30th, 2012