Average life expectancy in England rises to 81 years but north-south divide remains

The average life expectancy for people in England has risen from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013, a new study has found, but divisions remain between figures for the north and south.

Public Health England scientists found that a slowdown in the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some cancers in this period meant that people in England could expect to live 5.4 years longer.

This happened despite an increase in the number of deaths from liver disease.

Average life expectancy across the UK rose from 75.7 years in 1990 to 81.

South East England had the best life expectancy in the whole UK at 82.4 years, while Scotland had the worst at 79.1 years.

The figures, published in The Lancet, use data from The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2013 (GBD 2013).

PHE Professor John Newton and colleagues analysed patterns of ill health and death in England, calculated the links of preventable risk factors, and ranked England compared to 14 European Union countries along with Australia, Canada, Norway and the USA.

The gains in life expectancy were greater for men than women.

Poor diet, perhaps unsurprisingly, is still a leading cause of premature death in England. Credit: PA

Men in England could expect an extra 6.4 years of life expectancy to reach 79.5 years of age, putting them level with Finns but behind the expected life span of a man from Luxembourg.

The average national life expectancy increased by 4.4 years to 83.2 years for women in England, which still placed them ahead of all other nations surveyed except Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.

But it's not all good news: A larger older population also meant that conditions linked with old age such as dementia and injuries to the joints, ligaments, muscles and nerves were more common.

Low back and neck pain, along with hearing and vision loss and depression were among the illnesses faced by people who lived longer.

Co-author Dr Adam Briggs noted that life expectancy is increasing across the country but large inequalities still remain.

The study also found that poor diet and smoking are the biggest risks which may cause premature death or disability among people living in England.

Life expectancy by region (male and female combined)

  • South East England - 82.4

  • East of England - 82.2

  • South West England - 82.0

  • Greater London - 81.4

  • East Midlands - 81.2

  • West Midlands - 80.9

  • Yorkshire and the Humber - 80.6

  • Wales - 80.3

  • North East England - 80.1

  • North West England - 80.0

  • Northern Ireland - 79.6

  • Scotland - 79.1