The Health Foundation says that poor women in England have the lowest life expectancy of almost all OECD countries, at 78.7 years
Health is a multi-faceted thing. Good health depends on many elements, from past experiences of starvation to access to nutritious foods, from air pollution to maternity conditions.
COVID-19 shed light on the rubix-cube nature of good health, highlighting patterns among communities where the virus was most likely to cause hospitalisation and death. The virus also dealt the greatest global hit to life expectancy since WWII, according to research by Oxford University. One of the key revelations mid-pandemic was the role of class in the severity of the virus.
The average life expectancy in England is 83.2 years old
For the whole of England, the average life expectancy is 83.2 years old. This is significantly higher than many countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), showing that England is still privy to the fifth-largest economy in the world.
When it comes to differences in class though, women in the poorest 10% of areas in England have the lowest life expectancy among almost all OECD countries.
The analysis, comparing measures of life expectancy by deprivation, finds that England has some of the worst health outcomes in contrast to countries with a similar economy. Women in Colombia are expected to live until 79.8 years, while Latvian women live until 79.7 years.
Mexico, which has the lowest life expectancy at birth of any OECD country, has an average of 77.9 years life expectancy for women.
Gap between rich and poor life expectancy is 7.7 years
On the other hand, women living in the richest 10% of areas in England look forward to a life expectancy of 86.4 years – higher than overall life expectation for women in any OECD country, apart from Japan. Japan has an immensely high life expectancy for women, at 87.3 years.
In 2020, the ten-year Marmot Review urged the UK Government to examine regional divides in health outcomes, by prioritising two things when creating new policies:
1. To improve health for people living in deprived areas, especially those outside affluent areas in London and the South (tackling the realities of regional divides);
2. And to reduce socio-economic inequalities in life and health (then tackling the class, race, and other divides).
The majority of policy-recommendations in the Marmot Review were ignored.
Health inequalities in England – highlighted by this analysis, ongoing NHS observations, the ten-year Marmot Review, and other investigations – find a significant gap between the poorest and richest communities.
It will take 192 years to push life expectancy up by five years
More analysis by The Health Foundation suggests that, based on pre-pandemic trends of health change, it will take 192 years to achieve the increase of life expectancy up by five years. The five year goal is currently part of the Levelling Up policy, which was announced in February 2022, after much anticipation over the preceding few years.
Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said: “The stark reality in the UK is that the poorest can expect to live shorter and less healthy lives than their richer counterparts.
“For many people, poor health is a significant barrier to work and training. The economic impact of lost output and health costs associated with poor health adds up – these are estimated to cost the UK economy around £100bn a year.”