Healthy life expectancy due to fall in North-East, analysis suggests

  • Researched and produced by Tom Sheldrick and Madeleine Letherby

The North East is set to fall further behind other parts of the country in terms of how long people live in good health, according to new analysis shared with ITV News Tyne Tees.

Healthy life expectancy is a measure of the average number of years a person would expect to be in good health, and is considered a key indicator relating to quality of life.

One of the missions set out in the government's Levelling Up White Paper, published in February 2022, was: "By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years."

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed in 2017-19, healthy life expectancy for women in the North East was 59.0, compared to 63.5 across England as a whole.

IPPR North think tank has analysed trends from the ONS data and projected figures forward. They estimate that, by 2030-32, healthy life expectancy for women in the North East will have fallen to 58.0, compared to 63.4 across England.

For men, in 2017-19, it was 59.4 in the North East, compared to a national average of 63.2. IPPR North expects that by 2030-32, healthy life expectancy for men in our region will fall to 58.9, compared to 63.1 across England.

IPPR North predicts healthy life expectancy for men in our region will fall to 58.9 and for women 58 which is less than across England. Credit: ITV

Luke Myer from IPPR North said: "Whether it's on the quality of housing, whether it's on the quality of work in the region, we're not seeing government go far enough in terms of intervening on these indicators that can really make a difference in terms of health.

"There's a lot more that needs to happen."

In response, a government spokesperson said: "Tackling the disparities in Healthy Life Expectancy and narrowing that gap across the country is an important part of Levelling Up."

They refer to having made this a mission and say they recognise the scale of the challenge.

They say they have been taking action to address the causes of poor health and are working on a 'major conditions strategy' that will tackle the conditions that are most often responsible for ill health and early death.

  • Analysis by our Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick

This is about just one of the 12 missions set out in last year's Levelling Up White Paper and a reminder of how hard it will be to meet it.

Healthy life expectancy is so fundamental, it's about people's quality of life being different in different parts of the country.

It is also connected to so much else - from the quality of housing and jobs to the legacy of heavy industry, as well as the connection from deprivation to just about everything.

Closing these gaps will surely require a lot more commitment, over many years - whoever is in government.

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