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Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics data on healthy life expectancy, Kathryn Marszalek, Senior Analytical Manager at the Health Foundation, said:

'Two years ago, as part of the levelling up agenda, the government pledged to increase healthy life expectancy by 5 years by 2035 and narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy between the places where it is highest and lowest. Today’s data release highlights the mountain still left to climb to meet these goals. 

'Healthy life expectancy at birth for females in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has fallen. A similar trend is seen for healthy life expectancy at birth for males, with the exception of Northern Ireland, where it has increased marginally. This overall reduction is likely driven by falling life expectancy during the pandemic but follows a decade during which improvements in healthy life expectancy have flatlined.

'It is also clear that inequalities remain stark. For men, the gap between the English regions with the highest and lowest healthy life expectancy has widened by 1.1 years since 2017–19 – a boy born today in the North East is expected to spend almost 7 fewer years in good health than a boy born in the South East. And whilst the gap between regions has reduced for women by just over 1 year, this is a product of a significant reduction in healthy life expectancy in the South East alongside a more modest reduction in the North East, rather than any improvement.   

'Moreover, healthy life expectancy has decreased for men of all ages, with over half a year reduction for those under 50 years of age. This demonstrates that not only is healthy life expectancy reducing across the country, but that this is happening unequally across geographies, sexes, and age groups.  

'Increasing the number of years people can live in good health requires action across the building blocks of health. Secure jobs, adequate incomes, decent housing, and high-quality education all shape our health. Reducing health inequalities is achievable but needs a long-term cross-government approach, with all departments working together to prioritise good health.'

Media contact

Billie Morgan
020 7257 8000
0790 8637 666

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