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Longer lives in poorer health?

Men are living longer but are they living healthier? According to new figures from the National Statistics Office, a boy born in the UK in 2001 can expect to live 75.7 years - up 4.8 years since 1981 - but nearly nine of these years will be in poor health. 

Life expectancy remains higher for females than for males - in 2001 a baby girl's life expectancy at birth was 80.4 years - although life expectancy for males has been increasing faster than for females. There was an increase of 4.8 years in male life expectancy between 1981 and 2001. For females the corresponding increase was 3.6 years.

The statistics that will cause concern for health campaigners are those for so-called 'healthy life expectancy'. In 2001, healthy life expectancy at birth was 67.0 years for males and 68.8 years for females, a gap of 1.8 years.

The difference between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy can be regarded as an estimate of the number of years a person can expect to live in poor health. In 1981 the expected time lived in poor health for males was 6.5 years. By 2001 this had risen to 8.7 years. Females can expect to live longer in poor health than males. In 1981 the expected time lived in poor health for females was 10.1 years, rising to 11.6 years in 2001.

Director of the Men's Health Forum Peter Baker said: 'While the slow increase in average male life expectancy is obviously to be welcomed, it is just one of many measures of health. When considering male health, we also need to take into account the rising incidence of prostate cancer, the very high suicide rates amongst young men in particular, the steady rise in male overweight and obesity and the high proportion of men who drink alcohol at dangerous levels. We must also take into account social class, since life expectancy is still much lower among men in social class 5.'

Page created on July 26th, 2004

Page updated on December 1st, 2009