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Comment by Joseph Lu, mortality actuary at Legal & General on the new Public Health England's Longer Lives website, which ranks local authorities, local variations in early death rates for those aged 75 and under.

Joseph Lu - Director of Longevity Risk
Joseph Lu
Director of Longevity Risk

11 June 2013

Joseph Lu - Director of Longevity Risk
Joseph Lu
Director of Longevity Risk

The league table uses a colour system to rate areas tackling premature deaths from red for the worst to green for the best, comparing the number of people under the age of 75 who died over a two-year period. The Department of Health hope is that the data would provide local areas with information to help them understand their own position and so target specific health challenges.

In April, councils became responsible for encouraging people to stop smoking, eat better, drink less alcohol and face up to other public health problems.

Joseph Lu said: "This new Public Health England data will be really valuable to local authorities and for individuals, in helping to create greater awareness of the impact poor diet and lifestyle does have on our health and life expectancy. Research we have conducted with the Longevity Science Advisory Panel has highlighted that there are still very strong differences in living standards across socio-economic groups. For example, a man born into a higher socio-economic group 20 years ago would be expected to live on average 75.6 years, 4.9 years more than a person in the lower category. Today, a man born into a higher socio-economic group is expected to live 80.4 years, 5.8 years longer than a man in the lower socio-economic group.

We're currently all living longer, but our increasingly poor lifestyle choices could see life expectancy gains fall and the elderly living an increasing number of years in retirement but in ill health, if we do not do more to improve the lifestyle choices people make.

Smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and public health are key factors in reducing life expectancy. Thankfully we are seeing some favourable trends. With more people stopping or reducing the amount that they smoke and with greater awareness of the need to have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, we are seeing a fall in coronary heart disease death rates. However, obesity and diabetes still need to be addressed. People classified as severely obese, BMI 40 to 50 can expect their life expectancy to be shortened by 10 years. In 2004, obesity among men in the professional socio-economic group was 18% compared with 28% for those in the unskilled manual class."

Joseph continued: "ONS figures currently show that a man aged 65 can expect to spend just 56% of his retirement in good health and a women of the same age, will spend a similar 57% of the time in good health. So lifestyle choices we make now will have an impact on how long we will need our pensions to last and whether we will be able to afford care if we should suffer disability or illness.

Although the gap between men and women's life expectancy is narrowing, there is still a huge gulf in longevity when comparing socio-economic groups. Poorer people are still living shorter lives than wealthier people. Little progress has been made over the last 20 years towards reducing the inequalities across the country, so there is more that may be done if we want better quality of life for everyone."

Journalists wanting further information or to arrange an interview with Joseph Lu or Dame Karen Dunnell, Chair of the Longevity Science Advisory Panel, should contact Berni Ryan  details below.

Notes to editors

Source:  Research drawn together by the Longevity Science Advisory Panel, "Life Expectancy; past and future variations by socio-economic group in England & Wales", has examined why, despite the efforts of successive Governments to narrow the gap in life expectancy, the difference continues to widen. The study highlighted that at age 65, men in the highest socio-economic group in England and Wales are living longer than those in the lowest socio-economic group by up to 3.5 years, increasing from a gap of 2.3 years twenty years earlier. A copy of the Report, Life Expectancy; Past and future variations by socio-economic groups in England and Wales, is available to download at or by requesting a copy to                                         

For more information please contact:

Berni Ryan

Berni Ryan
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